Created By: Excrubulent on November 30, 2013 Last Edited By: DracMonster on May 25, 2014
Troped

The Pawns Go First

The BigBad deliberately lets the heroes defeat his henchmen before fighting them himself.

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Attention Excrubulent: Prepping this for launch, reply below if you want it back. —DracMonster

The Big Bad could easily step in and join the fight at any time, but instead he chooses to wait until all their subordinate forces are defeated. Unlike Orcus on His Throne, he's not necessarily passive or staying off-camera, this is a case where he has made a conscious choice to spectate for this particular battle.

May show that the villain has no regard for his henchmen's lives and just wants to get his money's worth out of them, that he considers fighting alongside lesser forces beneath him, or that he's too overconfident to consider the heroes a threat. If he's watching from a Slouch of Villainy, it's likely to be all three. If the villain could conceivably have won if he'd stepped in earlier, he may be holding the Idiot Ball.

On the other, more pragmatic hand, the villain may be letting his minions soften up the heroes while minimizing risk to himself, or taking the opportunity to observe the heroes' fighting style. Or maybe he plans to try to recruit them if they're good enough to defeat his Elite Mooks.

Usually occurs at the top end of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, with the Final Boss.

Compare Mook Chivalry, Flunky Boss, Run the Gauntlet, Boss Rush.

Examples:

Film
  • Two nested occurrences of this trope appear at the end of Equilibrium. First Brandt and DuPont calmly watch Preston kill the guards, then DuPont calmly watches Preston curb stomp Brandt, and only then does DuPont fight Preston. All of this happens in the same room.
  • In Kill Bill: Volume One, when The Bride comes after Yakuza boss O-Ren Ishii ("Cottonmouth"), she first faces the mooks who are dining with her, then the "Crazy 88" squad who roll in on motorcycles. When she kills them all (leaving one last youth among them to run away), she then faces O-Ren in a quiet winter garden setting behind the building.
    The Bride: "Any more subordinates for me to kill?"
  • In X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto holds back while his hordes of lesser powered mutants blitz Alcatraz, telling his right-hand man, "In chess, the pawns go first."
  • The final fight in Jackie Chan's Project A has the heroes mowing down waves of enemies while the head pirate San-po makes a point of standing back and watching the fight.

Tabletop RPG
  • In the Champions supplement "Ninja Hero" the martial arts version of this is explained as a specific perk of being master of a fighting school—if challenged, you can deflect it to your students first, to see if the challenger is worth your while, and also spot any weaknesses in their fighting style you can exploit. (An actual skill in the Hero System called "Analyze Style.")

Video Games
  • In the first entry of the Kunio-kun series Nekketsu Kouha Kunio Kun (as well as its Western localization Renegade), Kunio would fight Mooks while the stage's boss would hang to the side and watch. When you were down to two or three mooks, the boss would then join in the fight.
  • Subverted in God Hand with the boss Afro Fist. While he initially sits back and lets his two ladies do the fighting for him, the moment one dies or his couch gets destroyed, he begins to fight... with no cutscene warning to the player either!
  • This is apparently what the Street Fighters are doing in Street Fighter X Mega Man.
  • The God King in Infinity Blade doesn't bother rising from his Slouch of Villainy until you've defeated his minions. Comes full circle in the third game, the God King challenges the Worker of Secrets in the opening, who is too busy updating his blog (or whatever he's doing with his computers) to pay much attention until his guards are down.
  • Subverted in Rise of the Underminer: The heroes think that the powerplant foreman Dug is doing this, but it turns out that he was never loyal in the first place, and was deliberately getting all his bodyguard robots destroyed at the heroes' hands so he'll be free to negotiate with them.
  • In Project X Zone, boss and mini-boss units will skip their turns until your units get close to them, while the Mooks start charging from the beginning.
  • In the Vindictus mission "Friends?", unlike most missions, the boss doesn't spawn immediately when you enter the boss room. Instead, you face a constantly replaced swarm of Mooks and Elite Mooks, and the boss doesn't show up until you've taken out one hundred of the latter.
  • In World of Warcraft, some of the instance bosses do this. For instance, when you enter Emperor Thaurissan's throne room in Black Rock Depths and start cutting your way through his courtiers, he will make remarks like "They were just getting in the way anyways."

Webcomics
  • In The Order of the Stick book Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, the Big Bad Xykon tells his minion to arrange the mooks with the weakest monsters on the highest levels and the strongest ones near his throne room, mostly so the weakest mooks can be slaughtered for his own entertainment.

Western Animation
  • The first time we see "Father" of the Delightful Children From Down the Lane in Codename: Kids Next Door, he's the Big Bad Badass. Once his Children are beaten by the Kids, he takes them on and does great...until an adult Nigel Uno gets the upper hand with a soft-ice-cream spraying machine to cool off his fires.
Community Feedback Replies: 50
  • November 30, 2013
    Excrubulent
    Examples:

    The final fight in Equilibrium.

    The final fight in Jackie Chan's Project A. San-po steps in before all his men are defeated, but only just - he definitely waits until he has absolutely no choice.
  • November 30, 2013
    dalek955
    The link you want for paragraph 4 is Orcus On His Throne.
  • November 30, 2013
    Arivne
    So this is limited to the hero's actual encounter with the Final Boss, not all of the fights he has to go through to reach the area where the Final Boss is found.

    By the way, by doing this the villain is following the first rule of Mook Chivalry: "Ganging up is unsporting and dishonorable. Mooks must always attack the hero one at a time; to gang up would be to destroy the principle of war."
  • November 30, 2013
    Excrubulent
    Fixed the link, I probably had the VR headset in my brain.
  • November 30, 2013
    Excrubulent
    Arivne: It is generally speaking limited to the final fight, although it could also apply when the villain is clearly able to intervene at any time, and isn't just waiting for a tactical advantage. Instead, they're letting their mooks do the fighting because, well, we don't know. Maybe they're just lazy.

    It could be a form of Mook Chivalry, except A) they're not a Mook, and B) they are clearly shown watching the fight without intending to attack. Another thing that distinguishes the trope is the moment the villain realises the heroes have defeated their minions and now they will have to fight.
  • December 1, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Film

    • In Kill Bill: Volume One, when The Bride comes after Yakuza boss O-Ren Ishii ("Cottonmouth"), she first faces the mooks who are dining with her, then the "Crazy 88" squad who roll in on motorcycles. When she kills them all (leaving one last youth among them to run away), she then faces O-Ren in a quiet winter garden setting behind the building.
      The Bride: "Any more subordinates for me to kill?"
  • December 1, 2013
    kjnoren
    Don't like the name, another badass clone. What about Boss Of Single Combat or something similar?
  • December 1, 2013
    AP
  • December 1, 2013
    DAN004
    Contrast Flunky Boss.

    Maybe Mooks Down(comma)Boss'Turn?
  • December 1, 2013
    IndirectActiveTransport
    Enough with the badass snowclone. How About The Boss Fights Last.
  • December 1, 2013
    MaxWest
    In the first entry of the Kunio Kun series Nekketsu Kōha Kunio Kun (as well as its Western localization Renegade), Kunio would fight Mooks while the stage's boss would hang to the side and watch. When you were down to two or three mooks, the boss would then join in the fight.
  • December 1, 2013
    Scalondragon
    The first time we see "Father" of the Delightful Children From Down the Lane in Kids Next Door, he's the Big Bad Badass. Once his Children are beaten by the Kids, he takes them on and does great...until an adult Nigel Uno gets the upper hand with an soft-ice-cream spraying machine to cool off his fires.
  • December 1, 2013
    Scalondragon
    Sometimes it's another way to do Cherry Tapping, where the mooks are doing the whittilng down of a character until the heroes are almost out of both life and power points AND down to their last character too.

    And it also lets a Boss gauge how to act towards the characters and see the degrees of their strengths and weaknesses.
  • December 1, 2013
    TheTitan99
    I'm saying this is a subversion, but, I dunno, it might just be Playing With.

    • Subverted in God Hand with the boss Afro Fist. While he initially sits back and lets his two ladies do the fighting for him, the moment one dies or his couch gets destroyed, he begins to fight... with no cutscene warning to the player either!
  • December 2, 2013
    DAN004
    Boss Waits His Turn can be confused for boss waiting for his turn in turn-based RPG. :P
  • December 2, 2013
    meerkatspy55
    This sounds like Flunky Boss to me.
  • December 2, 2013
    Astaroth

  • December 2, 2013
    KarjamP

    @meerkatspy: That trope's about using mooks to battle alongside him, while this one's for the villain waiting till all the mooks are defeated/others managing to confront him.

    They're not mutually exclusive, and appear to be at least sister tropes.
  • December 2, 2013
    robbulldog
    • In X Men The Last Stand, Magneto holds back while his hordes of lesser powered mutants blitz Alcatraz, telling his right-hand man, "In chess, the pawns go first"
  • December 2, 2013
    randomsurfer
  • December 3, 2013
    Excrubulent
    robbulldog: I think that's a candidate for the quote.

    randomsurfer: That's more just a sequence of events where the hero climbs through the Sorting Algorithm Of Evil in quick succession, fighting their Rogues Gallery. It says on Run The Gauntlet's page that it's often because the Big Bad has planned it. The difference here is that the boss is clearly shown watching and waiting, whether it's through some form of surveillance or because he's standing right there. Also, the Big Bad isn't manipulating the hero's foes here; he's directly commanding them. They are his henchmen, not a random assortment of the city's bad guys.
  • December 3, 2013
    Excrubulent
    Just so I know, because I started this YKTTW, does that mean I'm the only one able to edit it? I'm fairly new here. I'll get to incorporating your examples and other tropes soon.
  • December 3, 2013
    Excrubulent
    Also, is the gender-specific pronoun okay? Would Boss Waits Their Turn be a better name?
  • December 3, 2013
    DAN004
    We have Unisex Tropes for tropes which have singular third-person pronouns in the title that doesn't imply gender. This trope shall go there.

    But still, title may be confused with boss waiting for his turn in Turn Based RPG.
  • December 3, 2013
    KarjamP
    I didn't know that "surveillance" of any kind is required for the trope.

    I'm a proponent for the rule "Tropes Are Flexible".

    It's when the example wildly deviates from what the trope's supposed to be about that it violates Square Peg Round Trope.
  • December 3, 2013
    robbulldog
    Just to see if anyone else likes the idea, if "Boss Waits Their Turn" doesn't work, would "The Pawns Go First", from the aforementioned X-Men movie example, work as a trope namer?
  • December 3, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    The Pawns Go First makes it seem like the usual Sorting Algorithm Of Evil. Orcus Waits On His Throne? obvious snowclone, but it makes it sound that the Big Bad is waiting rather than simply lazy like in Orcus On His Throne. wait, reading the trope, the Big Bad is in the frontlines but doesn't attack?

    Watching His Pawns Go Down? Orcus Spectates Before Fighting? Mooks Go First Before Their Boss?
  • December 4, 2013
    DAN004
    Eh, I'd like The Pawns Go First.
  • December 4, 2013
    Excrubulent
    I do like The Pawns Go First, because it's clear that it's a deliberate decision by the Boss, pawns being, you know, pawns and all.
  • December 4, 2013
    Excrubulent
    ShanghaiSlave: Yup, that's what's interesting about it. The boss is right there when the fighting is happening (or at least, close enough that there's nothing materially standing between him and the fight) and he does nothing. He's just standing there seeing how the fight will pan out.
  • December 4, 2013
    MorganWick
    So is this Sorting Algorithm Of Evil, only enforced and justified?

    Would this count? In The Order Of The Stick book Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, the Big Bad Xykon tells his minion to arrange the mooks with the weakest monsters on the highest levels and the strongest ones near his throne room, mostly so the weakest mooks can be slaughtered for his own entertainment.
  • December 4, 2013
    SKJAM
    • In the Champions supplement "Ninja Hero" the martial arts version of this is explained as a specific perk of being master of a fighting school—if challenged, you can deflect it to your students first, to see if the challenger is worth your while, and also spot any weaknesses in their fighting style you can exploit. (An actual skill in the Hero System called "Analyze Style.")
  • December 4, 2013
    Excrubulent
    MorganWick - that's exactly what it is. Except maybe instead of "enforced" I'd say it's decided by the boss, rather than pure Narrativium.

    I put The Order Of The Stick book under Webcomics because it's just a compilation of webcomics.
  • December 5, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    Expect the boss to have a We Have Reserves attitude toward his men.
  • December 5, 2013
    DAN004
    ^^ "Enforced" is not the right word, it's "Invoked".
  • December 5, 2013
    dalek955
  • December 5, 2013
    ElectricNova
    Isn't the name part of No New Stock Phrases?
  • December 5, 2013
    TBTabby
    In Project X Zone, boss and mini-boss units will skip their turns until your units get close to them, while the Mooks start charging from the beginning.
  • December 5, 2013
    dalek955
    ^^No. Being a statement that was originally a movie line doesn't make it a stock phrase.
  • December 5, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Italicized and namespaced a couple examples.
  • December 5, 2013
    DracMonster
    • The God King in Infinity Blade doesn't bother rising from his Slouch Of Villainy until you've defeated his minions. Comes full circle in the third game, the God King challenges the Worker of Secrets in the opening, who is too busy updating his blog (or whatever he's doing with his computers) to pay much attention until his guards are down.
  • December 5, 2013
    Kotatroper
    • A franchise tradition in the Pokemon Games. The heads of Teams just sit by and watch as you pummel their Grunts and their Pokemon.
  • December 5, 2013
    DracMonster
    ^Does that really qualify? Them participating would be like a boxer's coach running into the ring and socking his opponent.
  • December 6, 2013
    Excrubulent
    ^ I tend to agree - the difference here is that the Pokemon aren't actually gunning for the team heads. They're not fighting their opponent with plans to move onto its boss. They're just fighting.

    Also, I like Slouch Of Villainy. I'll see if I can work it into the description.
  • December 6, 2013
    Excrubulent
    I don't really like the expression "express consternation". Is there a trope for when a character gives off a huff of irritation? Not a big one, just a quick "dammit" expression?
  • December 6, 2013
    dalek955
    ^Maybe just change it to "express irritation".

    • In the Vindictus mission "Friends?", unlike most missions, the boss doesn't spawn immediately when you enter the boss room. Instead, you face a constantly replaced swarm of Mooks and Elite Mooks, and the boss doesn't show up until you've taken out one hundred of the latter.

    BTW, in the Underminer example, the link to Punch Clock Villain should be changed to Trapped In Villainy.
  • December 6, 2013
    MaxWest
    This trope may overlap with Tell Me How You Fight if the boss is trying to assess the hero's fighting style while handing back.

    If the boss is counting on his minions wearing down the hero(es), then there's overlap with Victory By Endurance.
  • December 7, 2013
    Excrubulent
    ^ incorporated both into the description.
  • May 24, 2014
    DracMonster
    Aight, this has five hats and is way past the Up For Grabs Event Horizon.

    Giving Excrubulent till this evening to indicate he still wants this or I'ma hit that launch button.
  • May 25, 2014
    acrobox
    Oh wait you should also add that its related to Run The Gauntlet and Boss Rush

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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