Alpha Strike

"Concentrate all fire on that Super Star Destroyer!

Sometimes you just need to pull out all the stops and kill stuff but good. An alpha strike is just the thing to help you accomplish that! An alpha strike refers to a unit attacking a single target with every weapon it has, all at once. When successful, the result is an absolutely devastating bombardment that turns its hapless target into a smoking crater. When unsuccessful, the attacking unit will usually be in for a world of hurt, as an alpha strike usually leaves it out of ammo, overheated, overextended, or otherwise vulnerable to Counter Attack from a surviving opponent (which will be even worse if the attacker is a Glass Cannon).

The phrase "alpha strike" originates from the Vietnam War, where it referred to a US aircraft carrier deploying its entire air wing to attack a single target, unleashing massive firepower at the cost of leaving the carrier basically defenseless for the duration of the attack. The term was eventually co-opted by tabletop wargamers, using the definition presented here.

During an alpha strike, expect to see Beam Spam, Macross Missile Massacres, More Dakka, and any other Spam Attack that the attacker has handy, all used simultaneously. Sometimes a type of Attack Pattern Alpha. Often a form of Death-or-Glory Attack. See also There Is No Kill Like Overkill. Vulnerable to becoming the Worf Barrage if it's shown to be ineffective.

Examples

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    Anime 

    Fan Works 
  • MegaGargomon uses this twice during the Tamers Forever Series, unloading his entire arsenal in an ultimately futile attempt to bring down Daemon

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Godzilla: Mechagodzilla does this to Godzilla at least once in pretty much all of his appearances.
  • In The Avengers, the Chitauri eventually resort to this when fighting the Hulk, surrounding him and swamping him with laser fire. It's the first thing in the battle that even slows him down.
  • Star Trek:
  • In the final battle in Return of the Jedi, Ackbar orders a full assault on the Super Star Destroyer, taking out the most senior staff of the enemy Navy fleet above forest planet, Endor.

    Literature 

    Live Action Television 
  • This is the modus operandi of Ultrazords in Power Rangers (and their Super Sentai equivalents). Usually it's part of a Lensman Arms Race against the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, but sometimes a random late-appearing monster gets caught up in the attack.
    • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger has this with the Gokai Kanzen Super Burst, where Kanzen GokaiOh and all the Legend Mecha blast the opponent at full power all at once.
  • Kamen Rider Zolda and his American counterpart Kamen Rider Torque employ the powerful End of World Finishing Move, in which their beast Magnugiga fires all of its armaments at once. (It's a lot of armaments too: it's got missiles. It's got lasers. It's got some more missiles. And machine guns. And yet more missiles. And that is how More Dakka is done!) This however leaves Zolda vulnerable to a counterattack, and seeing as End of World fails to kill another Rider...
    • End of World is Awesome but Impractical. The time it takes to set it up and the fact that Magnugiga is basically immobile makes it easier to avoid than a lot of significantly less cool attacks. (In Dragon Knight, though, he does manage to take out one other Rider.)
  • Kamen Rider Fourze twice performs a Finishing Move like this, using the Launcher and Gatling Switches along with his current States' main weapon; when he uses it in the show, he uses Fire States' Hee-Hack Gun; in The Movie he uses Magnet States' N and S Magnet Cannons.
  • The Excalibur in Crusade has a variation. Rather than firing all her weapons at once, she can pour all her power into one weapon. The effect is the same, as afterwards it takes 60 seconds to power back up again.
  • In Babylon 5, it takes massed prolonged firepower from Security plus massive amounts of the Station's power to rip open a Vorlon encounter suit. Even that doesn't take out the Vorlon inside.
    • In the movie Thirdspace, all the friendly ships attack the Artifact simultaneously (ignoring attacking foes). They have no chance of damaging the Artifact, but that isn't the plan..

    Roleplay 
  • Destroy The Godmodder: This has happened many times, with varied amounts of success. If it is aimed at the Godmodder, it almost never works. If it is aimed at other entities, however, they can die in a matter of days.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The originator of the term as we're using it here. Firing every weapon a 'mech has equipped has the potential to do ridiculous damage, but also generates enormous amounts of heat, requiring a cooldown period at the very least and at worst destroying the 'mech entirely — either by cooking off its ammo or just exceeding its heat limit by such a wide margin that it spontaneously explodes. Hence this tactic is generally treated as a desperation or last-resort attack among many pilots.
    • Also seen in the (defunct) trading card game, where "Alpha Strike" was specifically an ability of certain units — mostly 'Mechs, but also some vehicles after those were added as their own unit type. Using it let that unit do more damage in a given fight at the cost of becoming temporarily depleted and having to sit out the next turn.
    • Some 'Mechs, though, are designed with this in mind. An Alpha Strike from a 'Mech like this falls just short of shutting it down - the required technique is to Hit and Run, safely cooling off out of line of sight before coming back for another go. Performed correctly, especially in packs, it can cripple a more conventional 'Mech design.
  • Star Fleet Battles: Knowing when to use an alpha strike can win you the game. Notable as one of the games where "Alpha Strike" is not just fandom jargon; it's a specifically defined action in the rules text and an in-universe name for the tactic.
  • Alpha Strike is in fact also a term in Magic: The Gathering for attacking with every one of your creatures in one combat, which is usually a risky Death-or-Glory Attack to end the game after long stalling (if you fail to win, your creatures cannot defend you from the opponent's similar alpha strike next turn) or a way to force the opponent to trade (or lose) his creatures disadvantageously. An alpha strike usually turns into a pileup of tricks and countermeasures, exhausting most of the good cards the players had in hand.
  • One tactic used by the Dark Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 boils down to this. Basically, the trick is to bring Razorwing fighters loaded with missiles, then fire them all on the first turn in a hellish barrage of death that glasses half the enemy army during the first turn. Horde armies are really not fond of it.
    • The rulebook explicitly states this is how soldiers in a squad fire their weapons (all squads, in all armies). If the squad's rocket launcher blows up an enemy troop transport, they can't then fire their machine guns at the no-longer-occupants-but-pedestrians; the machine guns count as having been fired at the transport.
    • A tactic that is less effective but more rage-inducing (which is its own reward) is for Imperial armies to give every vehicle they have "Hunter-Killer Missiles", a fairly cheap upgrade that allows them to fire a single use, unlimited range anti-armor missile per battle. The player then fires all of them at the opposing player's most expensive model, hopefully gaining a cheap kill point and irritating the enemy through such a "cheap" tactic (HKMs are one of those things everyone forgets about...).
  • Very widespread and devastating in HeroClix, especially if playing characters like The Flash who have no damage reduction. With right positioning and good rolls, it is possible to inflict up to 10 clicks worth of damage in one attack in a game where an average character would have only 6 - 7 clicks of life, without even taking into consideration Critical Hit bonus damage or perplex damage boosts. Usually, characters who can do this are one - man armies, who can be taken down if they screw up on positioning by missing on their opening Alpha Strike. Notably, some characters are designed for Alpha Strikes like the Trinity Wars main set Crime Syndicate of America Johnny Quick who has a special ability that boosts his attack and damage values in exchange for taking damage equal to the amount of boosting he had. It can give him enough of a boost to render an enemy figure pointless in the opening moves, but should he miss, he would be in a lot of trouble from the damage, the most likely screwed - up positioning, and the possibility of retaliation.
    • Some characters have powerful damage reducers or "stop clicks" (powers that stops the dial from turning when revealed) to avoid Alpha Strikes; and with the release of the Trinity Wars set this year came Blue Devil, who Alpha Strikes characters with stop clicks (Blue Devil's trait makes it that if a stop click is revealed from his damage, that character takes further damage, essentially making the stop click a disadvantage).

    Video Games 
  • The term Alpha Strike is frequently used in City of Heroes to refer to the initial barrage of attacks any given mob is capable of using. This is because, with the exception of gimmick abilities tied to health or a timer, an AI opponent can and will throw ''everything' it is capable of throwing at you at the beginning of the fight. "Taking the Alpha Strike" is a common enough term in the game that one defense set has "difficulty taking Alpha Strikes" as its only weakness, and an issue and task force were named after the trope. Naturally, players also can perform alpha strikes.
  • MS Saga: A New Dawn: Several boost attacks qualify. There's Gatling Body, which requires at least three fixed (ie, not hand-held) weapons, and fires them all at once. Gatling Fire is an upgraded version, which requires at least four weapons, but includes hand-held weapons in the barrage. Ultimate Weapon is an upgrade of that, which fires every weapon you have equipped (like Gatling Fire), but follows up with a melee attack for good measure.
  • Warcraft III: The "hero nuke" tactic involves acquiring three heroes with powerful single-target attack abilities, and having all three attack a single target in quick succession. This is usually used to take an enemy hero from "slightly damaged" to "dead" without any time in-between to heal, escape, or activate any countermeasure.
  • MechWarrior, being a Spin-Off of BattleTech (mentioned in the Tabletop Games section) makes use of alpha strikes. All weaponry installed on the mech fires, regardless of grouping. Mechs loaded with high heat weapons usually find themselves glowing like the sun, or just outright exploding. Heck, the most recent edition of the series, MechWarrior Online, has a button that does exactly this, labeled Alpha Strike.
    • An Alpha Strike button also existed in MechWarrior 3 by hitting the numpad enter key. Doing this in a stock Supernova caused it to instantly explode in a miniature mushroom cloud.
    • MechWarrior Tactics has an Alpha Strike button which can be used to fire off the entire array of a selected 'Mech's weapons during the attack phase. This can have the same consequences as in Online, but in in a graduating increase of doom percentage.
  • The Persona 3 and Persona 4 games allow players to use the "All-Out Attack", which has all active allies attacking simultaneously, resulting in a Big Ball of Violence and a whole lot of damage to the entire enemy group. It's only available when all enemies have been knocked down (by dodging one of their melee attacks, hitting them with a critical melee hit, or using an elemental weakness against them), and it uses takes up everyone's action for that turn, meaning that you can't use any defensive actions like healing or buffing, which can be deadly if the enemy survives.
  • In Galactic Civilizations II's expansions, Dark Avatar and Twilight of the Arnor, the Arceans specialize in alpha-striking with their Super Warrior ability. Normally, in ship-to-ship or fleet combat, both sides' fleets attack simultaneously in a series of combat rounds, with ships getting eliminated on both sides until one side is completely destroyed. The Arceans' Super Ability however gives them a first strike upon initiating combat, allowing them to eliminate some or all of the enemy fleet before they get a chance to return fire, and as such their ships are generally designed for all-out offense with no defenses. If they fail to destroy or cripple the enemy in the first round, or the enemy gets the drop on them, it's generally bad news.
  • Quite a few units in Super Robot Wars have this, such the Astelion, the Valhawk and most notably the Alt Eisen's "Trump Card". It's always their strongest move and has few ammo uses. Even when the other attacks still have plenty of ammo, or even run on Energy. Don't ask.
    • The Trump Card is likely a Fountain of Expies as various other units in later entries get them, even those who don't canonically have such a tactic (Zeta Gundam, Destiny Gundam)
  • EVE Online: Fleet commanders that have command of at least one sniping battleship squadron will often tell the pilots of these vessels to move to the optimal range of their guns — away from the rest of the fleet. The tactic being that any hostile vessel that comes near the fleet gets utterly erased from existence from the powerful first strike capability of the combined long-range heavy cannons. The reload time of said heavy cannons make them a liability in close combat so moving the snipers out gives them another line of defense, being able to see if anyone is coming for them and running for it. The Fleet Commander will usually call "Target name - Alpha this target" The target usually dies instantly.
    • Alpha strike is used by Eve players to refer to any situation where the intent is to destroy the enemy ship in a single volley, be it an entire fleet focusing their fire on a single target or a single gatecamping ship attempting to destroy a ship before it has a chance to warp off. Artillery weapons are generally regarded the king of alpha strike as they deal the most damage per hit. Large fleets tend to prefer weapons with a higher rate of fire such as railguns, tho, as the extra damage from artilleries is likely overkill and faster firing weapons have higher damage per second.
  • A variation of this is used in World of Tanks. In World of Tanks it differs slightly from others in that alpha damage refers how how much damage a tank can inflict with one shot from its main gun, but considering a tank only has one gun in the first place and a tank with very high damage per shot also tends to have slow reload, it could count as "all weapons".
  • In Iji, the "Alpha Strike" is a special-purpose weapon installed on certain warships that automatically synchronize with each other, allowing thousands of ships to Strike a planet's surfaces simultaneously. Even a low-power Strike (like the one in the intro cutscene) ranks as a biosphere-destroying disaster, and a more thorough one can go up to a total planetary extinction.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos has this as a chargeable Limit Break, where Michael fires all his carried weapons wildly and at once while screaming "HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?!". As a Limit Break, it has no downsides.
  • Mass Effect 1: During the final battle, Shepard and his/her friends have killed Saren, leaving Sovereign vulnerable to attack. The combined Alliance and Citadel fleets concentrate their attacks on Sovereign while Joker uses the Normandy's weapon to deliver the final blow.
  • In Mass Effect 3, Shepard unleashes one of these against the Reaper on the Quarian homeworld of Rannoch. When it survives the initial attempt at a Precision Strike care of the Normandy, Shepard has EDI sync with the entire Quarian fleet to pummel it further.
  • League of Legends has what appears to be a slight parody of the term, in Master Yi's ability "Alpha Strike", which launches him forward like a ghost at a target, dealing impressive damage to multiple targets as he ricochets between them at the risk of potentially landing you in the middle of five irate enemy team members and getting you slaughtered.
    • There is however a build for him (effectiveness debatable) that focuses on building AP and amping up the abilities damage to ridiculous levels, effectively playing this straight. To a lesser extent all the "Burst Casters" are meant to do this, champions like Malzahar are most effective when they use all of their abilities at once to utterly destroy a single target.
    • AP Yi build now eliminated from the game because it had very little counterplay due to the cooldown reset on kill. You could wait for one enemy player out of five to be at half health, then roll in and use Alpha Strike to kill that player and damage everyone else, then Alpha Strike again and PENTAKILL.
  • In Scrolls, this is the main way for Growth to break a stalemate. Build up a large army, then play this. Either you win or all of your creatures are now on cooldown and you have no attack for the next several turns. Energy has its own version, but for artillery only.
  • On the Sword of the Stars forums, "Alpha strike" generally refers to the beginning phase of combat, as ships approach each other and fire off their first salvos of weapons (weapons start ready to fire, so as ships approach each other they can fire most weapons immediately, while cooldowns stagger attacks later in the battle). "Alpha Strike" weapons and designs can deal a lot of damage in this phase, hopefully killing a large number of enemy ships before they can respond effectively, but are not as effective at other times during combat, or fighting in a different style of battle.
  • In Freespace, the Shivans tend to mount nearly all of their guns facing forward, compared with the wider coverage of Terran/Vasudan vessels. While this doesn't give them much staying power when flanked, it makes facing a Shivan vessel in its forward arc borderline suicide. The Shivans combine this trope with Hyperspeed Ambush with devastating efficiency.
    • In the fan-made Blue Planet expansions, a lot of the new GTVA ships (GTCv Chimera and Bellerophon, GTD Titan) are built for the same tactic, with multiple heavy beam guns in the front.
  • Most M7 frigates with spinal gun mounts in X3: Terran Conflict and X3: Albion Prelude are capable of this trope, provided the player arms them with Incendiary Bomb Launchers, which can be charged up to fire by holding down the trigger instead of tapping it. The Teladi Shrike and Split Tiger are popular for this, but the Boron Thresher does them one better by mounting ten Photon Pulse Cannons instead. This is a chargeable gun normally mounted on full-size destroyers. Only problem is, a Thresher so rigged is a Glass Cannon: you can get off maybe two or three fully charged barrages before your weapons energy is depleted and you have to recharge, and the Thresher's shields are below average.
  • Defense Of The Ancients has a few 'nuker' type heroes with damage-dealing spells dominating their repertoire. Unloading them in rapid succession to an unsuspecting enemy can be devastating, at the cost of not being able to use it for the cooldown time.
    • On a strategic level, using multiple ultimates on a single key enemy hero, giving them no chance to counter or survive. This leaves the team without their all-important ultimates for up to 2 seconds, but also leaves the enemy team without the carry they spent the entire game growing into an unstoppable juggernaut. If the enemy team has no backup plan and the carry cannot buyback, the match is over. This sort of team is known as a pickoff comp(osition).
  • The Star Trek: Starfleet Command games, like the Star Fleet Battles tabletop game they're based on, have this. The currently-selected target is bombarded with all the weapons currently charged/loaded and facing it. Especially deadly when your ship has an Invisibility Cloak, allowing you to sneak up on an enemy, decloak, and deliver the alpha strike.
  • Star Trek Online has a few:
    • "Beam Array: Overload" is a bridge officer ability that causes your next attack with a beam weapon to be a one massive, critical-damage shot (Rather than a few pulses,) and then lets you fire a normal attack from the same weapon immediately afterwords. (Without a gap between shots)
    • "Beam Array: Fire At Will" fires all of your beam-type weapons on targets within your range, while boosting their firing rate. Cruisers, who typically broadside with beam arrays (the firing arc of forward and rear arrays overlaps), can fire all 8 of their beam arrays if equipped, but this drains so much power (which modifies damage output) that they typically employ only 6 or 7.
    • "Cannon Scatter Volley" is the same, except for cannon weapons. Since most cannons are forward-mount only (except turrets, which can fire 360 degrees), this results in a barrage of cannon fire at anything the ship is facing. Like Fire At Will, the ability requires recharging, and can drain serious weapon power.
    • "Cannon Rapid Fire" boosts the fire rate of cannon-type weapons on a single target. It's more designed for alpha-striking than rapid fire, which targets anything around the target.
    • "Torpedo High Yield" modifies your next attack with a torpedo so it is a couple torpedoes going right at your target. (This is done so you're more likely to get a hit on unshielded hull) A few types (gravametric, plasma) will launch one giant torpedo, which, while it is destructible and might damage your own ship, can do absurd amounts of damage to enemies if the shields are close to down.
    • Engineering captains, while on the ground, have an ability called "Orbital Strike": after informing your ship of the target's location, a powerful beam strikes the target's location and anything near it. Requires a lengthy amount of time to recharge, and the enemy can get out of the strike radius (but it will still fire and damage anyone who didn't).
    • This is often a favored tactic in PvP, as one can activate several of these abilities before decloaking for massive damage. Glass Cannon builds tend to either score a kill within the first few seconds of a fight, or die immediately from a massive retaliation in kind (usually from ANOTHER player waiting in cloak).
  • Theatre Europe, a World War III strategy game for 8-bit computers, quite often ended in an alpha strike from both sides, leaving no survivors and victory rating of 0%. This was a pretty deliberate message on the part of the developers.
  • A somewhat smaller scale of this trope is Salvador the Gunzerker of Borderlands 2 whose unique skill lets him dual-wield any gun in his inventory. Anytime he empties the clip of his gun, he swaps the gun out for another in his inventory.
  • Reflec Beat has an attack called the Just Reflec, which uses one segment of your three-segment Just Reflec gauge to bounce back a gold note like usual, but at a wider angle and a higher speed, along with an extra 10-point penalty if the opponent misses. Load all three of these segments at once and then Just Reflec a cluster of gold notes, and you can potentially overwhelm your opponent. Reflec Beat colette grants you five gauge segments instead of three, allowing you to pull off bigger attacks.
  • Sonic Unleashed has one as well when fighting the Egg Cauldron.
    Dr. Eggman: "GO! FIRE ALL WEAPONS!"
  • Dynasty Warriors: Gundam brings almost every Gundam example in existence, as well as a few that don't typically show up in their native source:
    • The Palace Athene's SP attack is best described as "fire all beams and missiles" and will completely unload the suit's missile pods. The launchers visibly regenerate the spent missiles afterwards.
    • The Buster Gundam has an aerial SP attack that is so hilariously excessive in sheer output of dual shoulder launched missiles as well as hand carried guns that it can lag a PS3 straight into single-digit framerates when used. Its partner, the Duel Gundam, is not that much better with its Assault Shroud letting it fire the Shoulder Cannon and missile launcher as well as the beam rifle all at the same time. The Calamity Gundam gives in to the violent urges of its pilot and lurches blindly back and forth firing all its weapons as its SP attack. Freedom and Strike Freedom appear and are Beam Spam death machines. Infinite Justice becomes one too when it triggers its METEOR Super Mode's SP attack. All three suits are shown firing everything they have, both in and out of cutscenes.
    • The Heavyarms Custom returns with its Full Open attack—notable for actually showing the Heavyarms run out of ammo every single time it's used, not necessarily just when Trowa does it.
    • Finally, a number of Mobile Armors will fire everything in their arsenal as either an SP attack or, more often, as Secret A.I. Moves. Destroy Gundam will fire off all its beam weapons as well as the missile launchers on its back, while Big Zam spews a 360-degree ring of beams around itself, then fires its main cannon. Psyco Gundam and Psyco Gundam Mk II will occasionally stand still, seemingly doing nothing and inviting free cheap shots, at which point they fire every single beam weapon they have and turn the space in front of them into a wall of pain.
  • Mega Man's Final Smash works like this in his Super Smash Bros. appearance. He summons four other incarnations of himself, and the five fire their weapons together at their target.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light gives you an achievement for doing this with the Weapon Pre-Igniter, an upgrade made specifically to allow you to arm and fire all powered weapons when a battle starts. Annihilating an enemy in a single salvo before they can even charge their weapons usually requires you to fire everything you have. You can simply wait for all your weapons to charge and then fire them in concert, which is a recommended tactic in battles anyway since you must usually get through Deflector Shields first in order to damage enemy ships directly, and groups of weapons stand a better chance of wearing down enemy defenses.
  • Vector Thrust players can activate their own Alpha Strikes, which vary depending on the special weapons they have equipped on their aircraft. Guided missiles will lock and fire simultaneously at a single target, while unguided munitions like bombs and rockets ripple-fire within two or three seconds, regardless of their original volley timers. While capable of dealing incredibly high damage against singular targets, especially if you've got weapons ready to go on your hardpoints, but it comes at a cost of a doubled reload timer for all weapons, forcing you to fall back on guns while your weapons reload. And of course, VT's fiendish AI will not hesitate to use it on you.

    Real Life 
  • The technique was developed by the British in World War II, under artillery-minded general Bernard Law Montgomery. He instituted what he termed "the pepperpot barrage", so named because everything larger than small-arms and capable of firing was vectored at the same target. For maximum shock value, each type of weapon was given a specific calculated time to commence firing so that everything from heavy machine guns to super-heavy artillery would have its rounds arrive at exactly the same time without warning. The British crossing of the Rhine in March 1945 was preceded by a "pepperpot barrage" involving up to 20,000 separate weapons note  which lasted for at least six hours, bringing down "shock and awe" on the german defenders a long time before the phrase was coined.