Heroes and villains are at war. The villain unleashes his greatest WeaponOfMassDestruction, perhaps in an AttackOfThe50FootWhatever. In the case of fantasy setting, it may be a huge monster. The first reaction of the heroes is to [[AttackAttackAttack attack all at once]]; they get easily defeated and the weapon is still undamaged. It's TimeForPlanB. Send an AttackPatternAlpha, ignore the looses and go on, take advantage of good luck, use ThatOneAttack that [[ItOnlyWorksOnce may only be used once]]... and finally, after a difficult and painful battle, the heroes destroy the terrible weapon. They are battle-weary, they are injured and with ClothingDamage, but victorious.

...hey, wait, what's that thing coming in the horizon? Another of those weapons? No, it's worse: it's ''a dozen'' of such weapons. OhCrap. It was so difficult to destroy a single one, can the heroes repeat the same thing again... and against a dozen of those things, at the same time? No, they can't. It's clearly the moment to retreat and escape, or to completely change the way to fight the war.

This trope helps to prevent the BadassDecay caused by TheWorfEffect. Even if it was difficult, the heroes ''did'' defeat the big weapon. And when the dozen of weapons show up, it's very clear that the hero has no chances and must flee, so clear that the watcher will not think ill about him for doing that (as he would if the hero escaped when the first lone weapon showed up).

This is the inverse of the ConservationOfNinjutsu. It also averts NoPlansNoPrototypeNoBackup, as the villains do the exact thing any military force would do: produce the weapon in industrial numbers, not head to the battle with a single one.

Often used on the first installment of a work to allow a victory against a foe, and then hammer the heroes (and the audience) with a warning that the Evil Overlord will not be overthrown today. This puts the last fight in perspective, as what was a relatively easy fight takes on nightmarish proportions if you consider that those troops were not even intended to be fighters in the first place, yet they gave the heroes some difficulty.

Interestingly, in RealLife, it's common for scouts to be particularly BadAss compared to the main force - after all, if the scouts don't return to report back, the main force will be exactly where they started but without the troops that acted as their scouts. So if killing the scouts was so easy, it wouldn't be illogical to assume their main force is a bunch of CannonFodder.

Used in basically every SortingAlgorithmOfEvil work (''Franchise/SailorMoon'', ''RoninWarriors'', etc). If said at the end of a work, a very common SequelHook.

See also NormalFishInATinyPond.




[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* ''{{Macross}}''
** The human military think they will defeat the Zentraedi because they don't realize just how massive the Alien armada is. And even then, they only reason they were surviving against the scouts was because the scouts were probing humanity's defenses to learn more about them, rather than just stomping them out of existence. [[spoiler:The Macross Beam that humanity is so proud of on the eponymous ship? ''Every single Zentraedi warship has one.'' They just weren't using them.]]
** One of the final lines of ''Anime/MacrossDoYouRememberLove'' is a grim statement by Exsedol that, even though they've barely managed to defeat Boddole Zer and Lap Lamiz, there are thousands of other Zentraedi/Meltrandi fleets in the galaxy that are just as powerful still waiting, so the ''real'' hardships are only just beginning.
** Similarly, in ''MacrossII'', they make the same mistake with the Marduk.
** In ''Anime/{{Macross 7}}'', the 7th Colonization Fleet has a fair amount of trouble with the enemy Varauta fleet's attacks, but they eventually decide to get serious and start blasting the Varauta with Macross Beams. [[spoiler:Then it's revealed that the Varauta soldiers are just mind-controlled pawns of the Protodeviln, just ''one'' of whom could annihilate the entire Colonization Fleet without much effort... or at least, they could if Basara would stop getting in their faces and singing at them.]]
* At the start of ''DragonBallZ'', when Raditz arrives to Earth, it takes the combined efforts of Piccolo and Goku, some help from Gohan, and even a HeroicSacrifice from Goku to kill him. During his last moments, Raditz tells of his two stronger companions, who will come to Earth in a year.
* ''Anime/DigimonFrontier:'' The team finally faces off with the dark angel BigBad Cherubimon. He throws off their best attacks easily, and after giving each member of the team the opportunity to throw TheWorfBarrage at him so he can laugh it off, he smashes everyone with a single attack. Kouichi, TheAtoner, gets his Digimon forms back, redesigned and stronger, and manages to defeat Cherubimon... only for the voice of Cherubimon to taunt him. That was just a much-weaker projection the real Cherubimon whipped up in order to try and talk Kouichi back to TheDarkSide. The ''real thing'' will be waiting for them when they reach his lair.
* The first enemy robot in ''Anime/{{FLCL}}'' was only part the hand of a robot. They meet the full version in the next episode.
* In the second volume of ''Barom One'', our heroes finally manage to defeat [[EldritchAbomination Doruge]] only to learn that he's an advance scout of the Doruge ''race'' and he's already called in reinforcements.
* The first Menos Grande seen in ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'' is the first really challenging fight that Ichigo faces. He couldn't even beat it on his own at the time and he and Ishida worked together to destroy it. Much later, Ichigo is disturbed when he learns that Gillian class Menos like the one he fought are mere foot soldiers in Hueco Mundo.
** After Hitsugaya's group wins against the first group of Arrancars, although Grimmjow is winning against Ichigo until he's forced to withdraw, Hitsugaya points out that the ones they killed are most likely not the elites.
** Played with when Ichigo tries to take down Ulquiorra and is saved by Grimmjow: Ichigo thinks that he must be the top Espada, and if he can kill him then there's nothing to worry about. Ulquiorra [[NoSell while holding Ichigo's blade in one hand]] reveals that he is only number 4
* In ''Manga/YuYuHakusho'', Yusuke is horrified when Koenma tells him that Younger Toguro, who at the time was the toughest opponent he had ever fought, was "only" an upper B-class demon, with B-class being the third highest ranking.
* In ''Manga/FairyTail'', Gajeel and Levy are attacked by Yomazu and Kawazu and have a very difficult time fighting them. Gajeel has a major OhCrap moment when Yomazu reveals they are merely the advance scouts of Grimoire Heart and orders Levy to run and warn the others of Grimoire Heart's arrival.
* From ''Manga/{{Beyblade}}'': The Blade Breakers are taking on the All-Starz in America. Tyson and Ray easily take down two gimmicky bladers. Then Max's mom reveals that those two bladers were some of their weakest, and the purpose of the battle was to gather data.
* In ''Manga/HaruhiChan'', after Asakura is defeated, she suggests this of herself, saying that there are three other members of the Radical Four like her, but all of them are stronger than she is.
* In the first episode of ''Anime/RoninWarriors'', the heroes work together and managed to beat the enemy only to learn it was a foot soldier in the [[EvilOverlord evil overlord's]] army.


[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* In one issue of {{Superman}}, Superman has been training for weeks and had to team up with [[OverlordJr the son of one his enemies]] to fight Imperiex. After a hard battle, Superman wins the battle and thinks Imperiex is through and goes home. Sometime later we find out that "Imperiex" was just a probe and that Imperiex Prime was a gigantic version of the thing Superman fought.
* The Celestials once decreed that a planet's population was to be destroyed. {{Thor}} disagreed, and exhausted himself beating on the Celestial who towered over the world with a downturned thumb and stoic expression. Through it all, the Celestial made no attempt to fight back, and Thor's attacks were laughably ineffective. Already frustrated at his failure to kill his opponent, he then realized that this one was merely the judge and jury of the Celestials-not the executioner. Cue the arrival of the executioner-ten times bigger, stronger, and angry.
* ''ComicBook/UltronUnlimited'' After destroying a whole country, Ultron fights against all of the Avengers (except those he had captured). After a long fight, they manage to destroy Ultron-7. Then, suddenly, Ultron-8 shows up. Iron Man is not sure if the can repeat all the fight again... which dissapointed Ultron-23. 23? [[TemptingFate How many of them are there?]] That's a very good question, says Ultron-647.


[[folder: Film ]]

%% The following {{Zero Context Example}}s have been commented out and copied to Discussion. Please don't add them back unless you also add context to show how they fit this trope.
%% * The Warg Rider attack in ''[[TheLordOfTheRings The Two Towers]]''.
* The attack of the Army of Anubis in ''Film/TheMummyReturns''. The Medji think they've defeated the army, only to the realize that the REAL army is swarming over the dunes like a monstrous black shadow.
* {{Invoked}} in the first ''Film/{{Hellboy}}'' movie:
-->'''Rasputin:''' Salt, gathered from the tears of a thousand angels, restraining the essence of Sammael, the Hellhound. The Seed of Destruction. This I can promise, Sammael, for every one of you that falls, two shall arise.
* In ''Film/TheAvengers'', New York is invaded by several aliens, and a flying creature that seems immune to missiles, laser beams, repulsor beams, it's all useless. Nobody can stop that thing... except a lone guy [[ComicBook/{{Hulk}} who is always angry]]. The creature is destroyed, but Loki simply summons more like them from the portal.
* In ''Film/ThorTheDarkWorld'', Asgard is attacked by the Dark Elves. Heimdall manages to get into the invading Elf fighter, and disable it. When a dozen fighters appear, he leaves.


[[folder: Literature ]]

%% The following {{Zero Context Example}}s have been commented out and copied to Discussion. Please don't add them back unless you also add context to show how they fit this trope.
%% * ''Literature/TheRestaurantAtTheEndOfTheUniverse'''s Frogstar Scout Robots.
* In SergeyLukyanenko's ''TheStarsAreColdToys'', the mightiest battle fleet of the entire known space is attacked by an unknown aggressor, who deals them heavy damage before being taken down. It turns out, however, that said "aggressor" was a ''mere'' scout of the super-advanced Geometer civilization.
* At the end of ''Mutineer's Moon'', the first book in David Weber's "Literature/EmpireFromTheAshes" series, there is an Apocalyptic space-battle on the fringes of Earth's solar system between human beings and a race of alien {{Omnicidal Maniac}}s. Hundreds of thousands of humans die, and Terran civilization is nearly wiped out, but eventually the good guys win. And its only then, in the last pages of the book, that it is discovered that the invasion fleet humanity nearly lost to was only a scouting force, and the ''real'' invasion fleet (with a thousand times the number of battleships than the fleet that just attacked Earth) is still coming.
* In AesopsFables, a lion is hit by an arrow, and runs away from the man who shot him. A fox, seeing this, makes fun of him, and the Lion retorts, "Yes, I'm retreating. If he's sending a messenger like this, just think how tough the man himself must be!"
* Creator/RobertSheckley's story ''A Wind is Rising'' has it with weather. A human station with two people is based on a planet where the wind never drops below 70 mph. They barely weather a storm of nearly 200 mph, which leaves them with a severely battered station and a broken vehicle at their hands. Then a local alien (who gives them weather forecasts) says "Sorry for my last forecast not being accurate enough to warn you about this moderate gale. Why is it my last forecast? Well, the summer is over, and now me and my people must leave to hide from the powerful winter storms."
* In ''Literature/DiamondSwordWoodenSword'', an army of mages has a hard time defending the world of Mel'in from an army of small {{Eldritch Abomination}}s called the Goat-legs. In the sequels, the main army of the critters arrives, and the magical orders are neither unified nor in control now and thus cannot oppose them.
* In the backstory to the William Barton military science-fiction novel ''When Heaven Fell'', a [[AIIsACrapshoot Master Race]] [[SapientShip scoutship]] with only a few hundred [[LizardFolk Kkhruhhuft]] [[SpaceMarine troops]] accidentally stumbled upon 22nd century Earth and decided to try conquering the planet by itself. After millions died, it was only driven away [[RammingAlwaysWorks after being rammed by a relativistic starship]]. The governments of Earth [[LockAndLoadMontage spent the next fifty years gearing up for interstellar war]], and all that bought them was ''eight billion'' humans dying under the [[OrbitalBombardment guns]] and [[PoweredArmor hydraulics]] of a full invasion fleet before the survivors surrendered and were absorbed into the Master Race's empire.


[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''Franchise/StarTrek''
** This is the Starfleet fear during later seasons of ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'': what if instead of one cube, the Borg send millions?
** Used in one episode of ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'': the ship managed to defeat a Borg scout without much damage, so Janeway suggests they start an offensive against the Borg. Seven of Nine reminds her that the outcome would be different had they encountered a cube.
** They try to take on a cube anyway with a method that should keep them invisible to the Borg, and a meticulously worked-out plan that will let them steal the AppliedPhlebotinum they need and get away in just a few minutes. ...and the Borg Queen reveals to Seven of Nine not only does she know ''exactly'' where they are, she could CurbStomp them ''any time she wished'' and would only keep holding back if Seven of Nine rejoined her.


[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]

* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'', the absolutely ''massive'' Tyranid fleets that have ravaged several sections of the Imperium are said to only be the scouting fleets of the main force. The same applies to the Necrons.
* Played quite straight in a scenario outline in the 4th edition ''TabletopGame/{{Champions}}'' supplement ''Mystic Masters''. The BigBad is a dimensional conqueror with the ability to split his awareness between thousands of different bodies of varying power levels, and one of his opening gambits is to test the [[PlayerCharacter [=PCs=]]]' defenses with a single one of his weakest ones -- any damage he manages to inflict is a welcome bonus, but mostly the intent is to find out what this new set of prospective enemies may be capable of. (The scenario explicitly hangs a lampshade on the possibility of the players potentially going "huh, was that all?" after this encounter.)


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* The intro to ''VideoGame/Left4Dead'' features this exchange:
-->'''[[ActionSurvivor Louis]]:''' We made it! I can't believe we made it!\\
'''[[OldSoldier Bill]]:''' Son, we just crossed the street. Let's not throw a party until we're out of the city.
* ''Franchise/MassEffect''
** ''VideoGame/MassEffect1'' ends with an epic battle against the [[EldritchAbomination Rea]][[SapientShip per]] known as Sovereign, which is only narrowly defeated by the combined efforts of the Citadel and Terran fleets. However, Sovereign is only a vanguard, left behind by the Reapers to secure their return. There are more where he came from, and they're coming back one way or another...
** At the end of ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' [[OhCrap over 200 Reapers have been counted. Just one nearly wiped out the Citadel Fleet.]]
** And in the trailer for ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'', [[spoiler: ''at least eight'' of them are attacking London. Who ''knows'' how many others are on the planet?]]
* Happens in ''SonicChronicles''. The first Marauder that Sonic encounters is only a scout. Sonic expects an easy fight, only for the scout to turn out to be a difficult boss (well, difficult for a first level boss).
* The first few battles against the Shivans in ''{{Freespace}}'' are completely one-sided, with the Shivan ships being NighInvulnerable, extremely maneuverable, and heavy-hitting in damage. A few upgrades later, the player can fight these monstrosities evenly, and even manages, with a huge amount of effort, to capture what they think is a Shivan command ship. Then it turns out that those were outdated Shivan scouts, and the "command ship" was among the weakest deployed Shivan warships... the actual muscle of the Shivan armada soon arrives and pretty much steamrolls the Terran and Vasudan fleets, no matter what countermeasures they come up with.
** Also invoked by the tagline of the second game: "The Shivans are back, and they're wondering what happened to their scouting party."
* In ''InfiniteSpace'', the Lugovalian fleet that invades the Small Magellanic Cloud is only the vanguard fleet. [[spoiler: And it's still enough to easily conquer the entire galaxy.]]
* The heroes manage to defeat the Balmarian fleet by the end of ''VideoGame/ShinSuperRobotWars''. At the end of the Space Route, [[Anime/MobileSuitGundamCharsCounterattack Char Aznable]] sends a message to [[Anime/MobileSuitGundamCharsCounterattack Londo Bell]], whom he expects to be in a festive mood, yet unjustified by what Char is convinced has been a horrific mistake for mankind. He reckons they got lucky with this victory, and points out that Balmar is sure to send a second, or third fleet to Earth, without any shortage of firepower. Just how far will Londo Bell's efforts last, he muses, ostentatiously checking himself and claiming sarcastically that sour grapes weren't the intent of the message. Since Char is worried about mankind too, in his fashion, he has chosen to accompany the aliens returning to their own worlds. Therefore, he is entrusting Londo Bell with all the alien technology he has been able to amass, telling them to put it to good use for humanity. According to [[Anime/MobileFighterGGundam Master Asia]], he had to use the power of the Devil Gundam just on this fleet, and with the coming of the other fleets, he has to return to his home planet, Dug, to get aide from the Dug Interstellar Republic.
** SuperRobotWarsAlpha, which revised and retold the story of the Aerogaters attacking Earth's fleet ends with with a similar feeling. The Balmarians are in control of most of the alien forces fought, and those that aren't still pose a threat to Earth. In a twist though, when the Balmarians resume their attempts to conquer Earth [[HowTheMightyHaveFallen they lack much of their additional manpower]] and they've been losing fleets offscreen, to say nothing of the meteor storms devastating their home planet. In a way, the "scouts" wound up posing the greatest threat to the Earth Sphere.
* ''VisualNovel/{{Demonbane}}'' has this early in the story. After using Demonbane's immense power to destroy one of Black Lodge's destroyer robots, the heroes are feeling pretty good about their chances against the organization. Then the organization's leader, Master Therion, shows up and takes on Demonbane ''without'' his own HumongousMecha, and [[CurbStompBattle completely trashes it without even trying]]. This serves as a chilling reminder to everyone of exactly what they're up against and how tough a battle this will be.


[[folder: Web Comics ]]

%% The following Administrivia/WeblinksAreNotExamples have been commented out and copied to Discussion. Please don't add them back unless you also add context to show how they fit this trope.
%% * Used in [[http://lfgcomic.com/page/416 this]] page of ''LookingForGroup''.


[[folder: Web Original ]]

%% The following {{Zero Context Example}}s have been commented out and copied to Discussion. Please don't add them back unless you also add context to show how they fit this trope.
%% * The RoosterTeeth series ''supreme surrender'' is based around this trope.


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* ''WesternAnimation/TransformersPrime'' in ''Crossfire'' [[spoiler:Airachnid]] now wanted by Megatron, controls an Insecticon to get her revenge. The Insecticon really got Meg's on the ropes, but after he defeated it, she realizes that it was only a scout, as she found an entire nest of Insecticons.
* In the episode "Savage Time", the WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague appears in World War II. The immortal villain Vandal Savage had sent to himself information from the future, that allowed to build an armored vehicle, tall as a building, indestructible and filled with weapons. Normal tanks have no chance against it. Even the Justice League has a hard time destroying it. When several more show up, the League retreats with the rest of the army.