If you can hit something with your weapon, you can damage it, however slightly. And if you can damage it, you can defeat it just by hitting it enough times. The exact nature of the attack, and how well-armored the target happens to be might affect this, but the fact remains that in many works, huge imposing enemies can be brought down by way of multiple attacks that, taken on their own, barely qualify as pinpricks. Crippling Overspecialization can make this even worse, if it isn't properly balanced.
As the riddle of The Hobbit said of Time: "This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel, Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, and beats high mountain down." Which means that, if you hit anything enough times with anything, the thing being hit will come apart. Unless the thing doing the hitting blunts or breaks first.
There are two ways to defend against such a tactic: healing faster than the opponent can damage and reducing each hit to zero. Well, there is a third — as somebody famous once said, the best defense is a good offense; if the would-be victim is effective enough at fighting back, and their attacker is too poor at evading, the former will probably live to tell the story.
This is Truth in Television: "Swarm" tactics have been a staple of military combat since the dawn of time, and have only gotten more prominent in the age of gunpowder. It's generally used on the operational level, however, to attack the enemy's logistics or wear them down through casualties over time. Generally, you can't simply fire enough rounds at a tank and eventually kill it, at least not before it kills you.
Usually used by the Fragile Speedster or the Stone Wall, the former is fast enough to avoid being hit, but has abysmal attack compared to others, and the latter is durable enough to take the damage with a straight face, but unlike the speedster, has a weak offensive.
Compare The Last Straw. See also Zerg Rush, Gradual Grinder and Cherry Tapping. Can be delivered quickly through a Spam Attack or by the members of a Zerg Rush. Someone who is Weak, but Skilled may end up relying on this. Depending on how heavily protected the target is, More Dakka may be involved. If it succeeds, the victim may suffer a Rasputinian Death. A subtrope of Quantity vs. Quality. Contrast For Massive Damage.
Byakuya Kuchiki's attacks use this quite literally. So does Rangiku Matsumoto, whose sword can turn into a cloud of razor-sharp ash, though it's not very effective.
This is what Hollowfied Kaname Tosen planned on using on Captain Komamura, until he decided, "Screw that," and revealed that he had a stronger form. Oddly enough, it was less effective.
Naruto's Rasenshuriken attack does this also quite literally, cutting and killing Kakuzu with so many cuts that Kakashi's Sharingan couldn't count them all (it counts really fast). If Kakuzu wasn't highly durable, nothing would have been left of him (like it's later shown with another foe). You could define Rasenshuriken as "death of a thousand cuts all at once".
This is how the Abyss Feeders operate in the post-timeskipClaymore manga. They attack as a group and retreat once enough have been slain, returning once their numbers have replenished. With each iteration, they adapt to their target's combat style and become increasingly difficult to defeat, until the target no longer has enough time to recover between fights and is overwhelmed. As demonstrated by Isley, who gets an Alas, Poor Villain moment as they eat him alive.
In one early volume of Ranma ˝, Ryōga trains a technique with the side effect of making him almost invulnerable to normal attacks, something Ranma wasn't expecting and thus only trained his speed. Ranma's tactic? He hits Ryōga a hundred times in the same spot so fast it looks like just one punch, getting past the augmented endurance by essentially tenderizing him.
The "Tim" deck is an old standby, dating back to the very earliest days of the game. A blue player stocks up on Prodigal Sorcerers (and similar cards such as the Zuran Spellcaster to get around the 4-card maximum in tournament play), which all deal one damage when tapped (the name is a reference to Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail). The resulting "wall of pokes" can be devastating to the opposing player.
And let's not forget the actual card Death of A Thousand Stings, which drains away just the tiniest bit of life but can potentially be reused infinitely.
Death of a Thousand Cuts is one way to get past the Circle of Protection cards. There are others, but that one's the most obvious.
There is a card called "Solar Flare Dragon" that inflicts 500 damage to your opponent every turn. With even 1 out, you can often, if protected, chip away at their Life Points. Plus, if there are two, they protect each other. And the damage stacks. Unless your opponent doesn't pull some Monster Removal in eight turns, he dies.
The Yata-Lock works like this. Your opponent has no cards in his hand or on the field, attack with Yata-Garasu, deal 200 damage and your opponent can't draw, meaning they can't do anything, repeat. This continues for about 10 turns or until your opponent surrenders. It's very effective, to the point that the card was banned solely for this.
In Strangers in Paradise, the mob boss Veronica captures a journalist investigating the links between her organization, government and big business, ties him up, and kills him by cutting off "one finger at a time, one limb at a time", then leaving him to bleed. For this atrocity (and for trying to kill her sister Katchoo), Tambi pays Veronica back in kind.
Subverted in one of the current-generation JLA comics, when the Flash chases another (apparently invulnerable) speedster at speeds approaching those of light.
Flash: At this speed, I could punch him a thousand times before he can react. But at this speed, once is more than enough.
Spider-Man often uses these tactics when up against stronger, slower opponents. His first fight against the Rhino back in the '60s was probably the earliest example.
In a Spirou and Fantasio story, the Marsupilami gets a grudge against a 10-meters high dinosaur, and smacks it on the head with a big stick, to absolutely no effect. The Marsupilami then proceeds to repeatedly hit the dinosaur's head for two days, after which the giant is finally KO'ed.
In the Tamers Forever Series Patamon manages to destroy a wild Clyclonemon by using a barrage of hundreds and hundreds of Wing Slaps
Films — Live-Action
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring — That's what it takes from the Fellowship to kill the Cave Troll. Though, in the film, the arrow through the roof of the mouth and directly into the brain was probably the more likely cause of death.
In Them!, the giant mutant ants can shrug off individual gunshots, but finally succumb when the characters turn Thompson submachine guns on them.
In Joe Abercrombie's Before They Are Hanged, Logen, while explaining what he's done in the past as the feared Bloody-Nine, says he once tried to tear down a wall during a siege with his bare hands. It didn't work, but he didn't stop until one of the defenders dropped a rock on him.
Toot-Toot: Go ahead, draw your sword! We will see who dies from a thousand tiny cuts!
In Lucky Wander Boy this is the signature attack of the protagonist's favorite character in the Eviscerator game in his company's breakroom (there because they're making a second sequel to the film of the game). It also figures in the film and short story he is obsessing a bit too much about.
In Dale Brown's books, while Tin Men usually cannot be damaged directly by anything smaller than anti-tank weapons, they can be drained of power, after which they become vulnerable to small arms. This has to do with the unique material they're made of that hardens when something hits it, or something.
The Vorkosigan Saga had a literal example take place in the execution of Mad Emperor Yuri. Aral Vorkosign got to take the first cut.
Used realistically in The Sword of Truth to fight the Empire in that the large force they were going up against was a seemingly endless army. Kahlan leads an army of 1000 against this force using guerrilla warfare and citing this trope. This is really more of a Million Mook March and 300, though. Otherwise, every army vs. lesser army would qualify for this trope.
In Lee Lightner's Space Wolf novel Wolf's Honour, Ragnar thought he had won a practice bout until his opponent walked him through the blows — he would have bled to death from half a dozen wounds not fatal individually.
Crysis: Legion: I can’t outrun the monster but I can outmaneuver it, dip and weave and jump from ground to rooftop and back again. It would have slaughtered me a dozen times if I hadn’t gotten out of the way a split second before it let loose. And all the time I’m bobbing and dodging and running between its legs, I’m scratching the paint on the hood ornament. After a while the hood ornament falls off. I start scratching other parts.
Snow Crash: Uncle Enzo combines this with Combat Pragmatist when fighting Raven, after getting hamstrung by the enemy, who uses glass knives. Enzo sets off a sonic pulse, which fragments all of his opponent's knives, which he has secreted on his person.
The Treecats of Sphinx use this tactic to handle much larger predators like hexapumas in the Stephanie Harrington series.
In the Honor Harrington universe, Superdreadnoughts are the biggest existing Ship Type (only non-Hyper capable and very slow moving mobile Fortresses are bigger) and are designed to exchange direct energy fire with other Superdreadnoughts. This means they are incredibly though armored, and unless you get really lucky and hit a reactor it takes a lot of hits to kill them... like those provided by the heavy missile salvos that characterize most engagements between the Manticore Alliance and the (People's) Republic of Haven during the series.
In Michael Moorcock's The Elric Saga, the hero is confronted with an unkillable Big Bad. The sentient dark sword Stormbringer recognises his need, and summons the help of a million multiversal manifestations of itself. All the alternate selves of Stormbringer lay into the Big Bad and subject it to this death.
Elsewhere, Elric finally catches up with his nemesis Yyrkoon, who grovels and begs for a quick clean death. Elric grins, and then lets Stormbringer take his soul - over a protracted period, a tiny little bit at a time...
Claire attempts to do this to Peter in an alternate timeline episode of Heroes. She only gets up to two before she is stopped.
Kamen Rider Double: Kamen Rider Accel's Trial form, whose creator gives us the page quote. Its power of Super Speed comes at the cost of some strength, so Terui gets in dozens of rapidfire hits before the enemy can react.
This is kind of what happened to Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. Autopsy stated that she died from blood loss after multiple cuts, none deep enough to kill her.
Druids have a high-level spell called Creeping Doom, which allows the caster to summon one thousand tiny insects that each deal a single point of damage before dying. Unfortunately, by the time you are able to cast it, most monsters you'd want to actually use it on have damage reduction, rendering it a Useless Useful Spell. The spell was reworked in the 3.5 edition to simply summon a large amounts of insect swarms (which, due to their pathetic damage, didn't improve matters). However it is helpful that swarms are totally immune to most conventional attacks, and are extremely distracting to anyone inside them. The original version of the spell lives on as the epic spell "Crown of Vermin", which ignores EPIC damage reduction — though it does not bypass damage reduction based on weapon material or alignment.
The effect of "creeping doom" was a plot point in The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters: it's used to take down the villain Peter Perfect, but when Dirk the Destructive tells Peter's corpse that the spell shouldn't have affected him (He's not "...subject to normal attacks..." which also applies to nearly every character in the story), his skeletal remains jump up and his body reforms, ready to free his comrades and menace the heroes again.
When you hit with an attack, you always deal at least one point of damage barring damage reduction, so an epic-level fighter could theoretically be killed by a sufficient amount of pebbles, or even a house cat. Made even worse when you consider that, due to the dexterity bonuses house cats receive, they are an extremely dangerous opponent to Commoners and even first-level characters, killing them at least 50% of the time in a theoretical battle. However, only a very bad (or very humorous) DM wouldn't compensate for this. It gets worse when you factor in a cat's bonus to Hide and Move Silently checks. The cat will almost always get a surprise round, and that makes the cat vs commoner matchup come out clearly in the cat's favor. The Cat Versus Commoner meme gets referenced in thisOrder of the Stick strip. However, instead of a Death of a Thousand Cuts, the cat scores a One-Hit Kill. Do not mess with Mr Scruffy. Although, to be fair, Mr Scruffy is probably far more dangerous than a house cat, and could single-handed slay several guards.
The book Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition for Dummies uses this trope by name while describing a fighter power that can still deal a little damage on a miss ("If you're fighting an enemy that you just can't seem to hit, you may have to settle for the Death of a Thousand Cuts.")
In Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Edition, there is actually a class that has this ability. It's called Dervish, and the ability is literally called "A Thousand Cuts". It doubles the number of attacks a person gets for one round. And when combined with the Warblade maneuver "Time Stand Still", which makes it so you get two rounds worth of attacks in one...well... Though this doesn't work until well into epic levels.
More generally, static modifiers add up with each separate application.
Warhammer 40,000: This is the standard tactic of the Imperial Guard to bring down something big when tanks aren't around: point many, many lasguns at the target, and it will eventually go down. Largely due to the fact that 1/6 of 120 still means roughly 20 hits, whereas usually you only need one to kill.
Tyranid players often employ this trope by the use of Gaunts with the special rule 'Without Number', though in this case, the cuts are quite often actual cuts.
This will only work with monsters with a certain Toughness rating however. Due to the rules, any monster with a toughness higher than 7 (which thankfully is rare) is utterly invincible to Guard fire. Anything with a toughness of 8 is immune to Tyranid fire (and most other weapons for that matter). Same goes for tanks that have a certain armor rating.
Similar to the Guard, you have Ork Shootas, Big Shootas and especially Flash Gitz. Pitiful armor penetration, mediocre strength, but even the Imperial Guard have a hard time throwing out as many attack dice in a single round, especially if the weapons are twin-linked. There's a reason that the Orks are the Trope Namer for More Dakka.
Played more literally by the Eldar. Their anti-infantry weapons fire molecule-thin shuriken discs at an extremely high velocity and rate of fire. As you'd expect, they kill things verythoroughly.
InNew World of Darkness, all objects have a durability rating. Only damage in excess of that rating will count against the object. For example, if six damage is done to an object with durability five, only one damage is done to the structure. Not an aversion; damage rolls are open-ended, and so even the weeniest attack has a nonzero chance of beating any given durability. If you keep hacking at a brick wall with spoons you'll eventually grind it to dust. Eventually.
GURPS: Powers introduces Damage Reduction which divides damage a few fold but can't drop it below one. As a result a mob of totally normal people can beat a superhero to death. Players rectified this by also giving such characters a couple points of Damage Resistance which allows a character to ignore a specific amount of damage.
The game also uses this to reduce the utility of cover. A person with a lot of ammunition can shoot their way through a stone wall.
Averted in Champions. The target's appropriate Defense (usually Physical Defense or Energy Defense) is subtracted from the damage done by each and every attack. If your Defense is higher than the maximum damage an attack can do, you will take no damage from that attack whatsoever.
Embodied in BattleTech by such things as short-range missiles, LB-X autocannons firing cluster shot, or most infantry attacks, all of which randomly scatter small damage packets across the target's hit location chart. Even if this doesn't hit a preexisting gap in the target's armor or score a lucky critical hit straight through it, said armor is almost universally ablative and will eventually be worn down, exposing the vulnerable internal structure and components underneath.
One Battle Mech in particular had ten guns, each of which did two points of damage, split into two one-point locations. The flavour text for the Mech stated, "It's like bleeding to death from a thousand tiny paper cuts."
Exalted both averts this trope and plays it straight. It has a feature called hardness, where if something does not defeat hardness it doesn't affect the character (hardness is normally abysmally low, but it prevents things like rocks). On the other hand, if an attack overcomes hardness, it does at least your Essence rating in damage, even if the enemy's soak would otherwise negate it.
Nerfed in the 2.5 errata down to just one die of ping damage, two or three if wielding an Overwhelming weapon, as part of the lethality revision.
Played straight in Cyberpunk 2020, where if your character takes physical damage he/she will take at least one point of damage after subtracting damage reduction (can't remember how was called in the game). So, you can be in (serious) trouble after receiving one point of damage after other point of damage and so.
Generally speaking, any game with a straightforward HP system allows for this, unless the enemy is simply too effective at fighting back to pull off the technique with your own HP intact.
Star Ruler plays this absolutely straight. With enough guns and ships, you can take out planets and stars. Yes, swarms of very small ships with railguns can blow up a star. It will take a long time, but it's possible.
Battle for Wesnoth suffers from this at times to time. For example the Undead faction has a unit called Walking corpse, which the main purpose is this trope.
Plus, even though your unit can have a 100% resistance against a particular type of attack, the attack will always deal 1 damage. So you can nibble that target to death with 1 dmg, assume that there's no way for that target to heal and the attacker don't die first.
The experience mechanic on the other hand serves to partially counter this. Trying to nickel and dime a tough enemy unit to death can backfire because the target gets a small amount of experience for each attacker engaging it, potentially resulting in a Level Up Fill Up undoing all the previous effort.
The Final Fantasy games feature a monster called the Cactuar, which uses a Fixed Damage Attack called "One Thousand Needles" that deals exactly 1,000 HP damage to your character in really fast 1 HP increments. In some games, there also exists a Jumbo Cactuar, which uses a "Ten Thousand Needles" attack that kills a character outright (since the HP cap in most FF games usually tops out at 9,999, and you take two needles too many).
Final Fantasy X has an ability that lets you break the HP limit so you can go over 9999. A bonus monster called the Cactuar King has an attack called 99,999 Needles and it does exactly just that, so don't think you can outwit it by having 99,999 HP.
At least in Final Fantasy XII, you can learn 1000 needles. It's actually quite helpful in taking down bosses whose defense increases as their HP decreases.
The attack is also able to be learned in Final Fantasy VI and IX, with the same benefits.
In Crisis Core, not only will you fight with and against Cactuars, some enemies just plain have ridiculous amounts of health and/or defence.
Also, in Final Fantasy VIII, you can contract the Jumbo Cactuar as a Summon Mon, and its attack (1,000 Needles) deals 1,000 HP damage PER 10 OF HIS LEVELS. So by the end of the game, once you've finished leveling your Cactuar Summon to level 100, it can break the damage cap by dealing exactly 10,000 damage. Essential to killing some of the strongest bosses out there, including the Red Giant in the final boss castle. Plus, since this attack deals a completely fixed (and guaranteed!) amount of damage, getting Cactuar to level 100 is usually a VERY good idea.
Final Fantasy VIII: Zell has a Limit Break that involves inputting different commands to use a combo and then a finisher, which ends the Limit Break. However, if you want to deal the maximum amount of damage possible, just keep inputting the same two starting combo commands over and over — the attacks are the weakest out of all of his moves, but they can be implemented incredibly quickly and keep the combo going as long as possible, ultimately dealing far more damage total than the actual combo finishers. The Fan Nickname for this move is "Armageddon Fist", and with good reason: under favourable conditions, Zell can hit an enemy over 60 times and continually reach the damage cap, potentially dealing over 500,000 points of damage this way.
Borderlands has a good example of this with the player's ability to Knife any of the Runners (the game's standard vehicle) to the point of it Exploding. Made even worse is the fact that one of the character classes (Brick) can PUNCH a car to make it explode.
Invoked in Borderlands2 with Thousand Cuts, an area containing Terramorphous the Invincible (technically in a seperate small area connected to Thousand Cuts. Terramorphous is far stronger than the final boss, and you will almost definitely have to take him out with.... wait for it.... a thousand cuts.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has an example of this, but it's deliberate. There is an optional boss called Jojora near the end of the game. You have to defeat her friend (a giant snow-doll creature), but it it not necessary to beat Jojora. Many players believe it is actually impossible to kill her; she has the highest defense in the game and every attack only does 1 damage. However, the designers actually intended vigilant players to be able to beat her - she only has 50 HP. A multi-hitting attack will wear her HP down in no time, and she drops a rare item and gives decent experience for your trouble.
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time has the Gold Koopeleons, which also have the highest defense in the game. They only have 10 HP, and every attack, again, only does 1 damage, with the exception of counters and First Strikes, which can do considerably more, for some reason (even killing them instantly at high enough levels). These enemies have a high speed rating, so they usually move first at normal levels when you first reach them, and they have a high chance of running from battle. However, they drop the most coins of any enemy in the game (80 in the European version and 100 in the US version), which can be doubled, or even TRIPLED with a certain badge. They usually appear in groups of two or three, and if only two appear it is possible to run from the battle and re-engage them, and three might be present! A multi-hitting Bros. Item such as a Red Shell can defeat all three of them in one turn (in the hands of a skilled player); hence it is highly recommended to come back and defeat these creatures once the player's speed rating is high enough to always move first - the rewards are very worthwhile. Using the aforementioned coin-trebling badge, this is easily the fastest way of earning money in the game.
In Super Paper Mario, there is one room near the end of each Pit of 100 Trials that is filled with Goombas. This appears to be a breather, except that these Goombas jump and headbutt Mario as soon as they spot him. The Goombas are very weak, but their endless attack can KO Mario in seconds. In the Flipside Pit they can be picked out by their irregular color, but in the Flopside Pit they look the same as the other Goombas.
This is one of Aht's two main methods of attack (the other being a Trap Master) in Radiant Historia. Her physical attack is puny, but most of her physical skills involve throwing multiple daggers at an opponent. Unlike most examples, though, this isn't intended to kill an enemy by attacking it multiple times, but rather to set up Combos with other members of your party, since the more hits an enemy takes in a combo, the more damage they take from later hits in the combo (meaning Aht can hammer an enemy with multiple weak attacks to rack up the combo, then another character can use one massive attack to finish them off).
Command & Conquer is the classic "Riflemen killing a tank" example, offset by the fact that a tank can usually save itself by running the infantry over. A particularly bad example is found in Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge, where the Hero Unit Boris is capable, when powered up, of killing heavy tanks in two or three bursts of his AK-47. Same for deployed GI troops who can in groups of 5 or more decimate pretty much anything non-air.
One of the add-on packs for Red Alert featured a mission with a Soviet Super Soldier who was ridiculously tough and did twice as much damage to anything he fought as they did to him. This reached an absurd height when you had him take on a battleship and win easily.
In Command And Conquer 3 this trope was averted somewhat. The game introduced a very rock-paper-scissors sort of combat where only units of a certain type could take out others (only anti-armor infantry could effectively fight tanks, but were weak against regular enemy infantry, for example). It was still possible to take down enemy armor with riflemen if given enough time, however and using railgun-equipped Mammoth Tanks or Scrin battleships en masse was always an I win button.
Averted greatly in Red Alert 3, where using basic soldiers even in groups was not successful against tanks or structures. The game took hard counters and micromanagement to such absurd levels units with weapons against different target types had to switch them around.
Another example was the Toxin General of Generals - Zero:Hour, massing chemical troopers could wear down anything on the ground, especially with the Anthrax Gamma upgrade. Yes you read that right - it was possible to destroy steel-and-cement structures by shooting poison at them.
That's because Poison Is Corrosive in that game. Looking at the types of facilities that are used to manufacture it, it's safe to say it's not just pure biological agent, but has corrosive chemicals mixed in the cocktail as well.
Starcraft both subverts and plays it straight. It makes sense against small to mid-mid size vehicles, since armor-piercing Gauss rifles are standard issue to marines, every Zerg uses organic monomolecular blades, and even the basic Protoss grunt has two energy daggers which can split power armored soldiers in half. Even the SCV and Zerg drone come with tools and pincers, respectively, that can disassemble armored vehicles as well as diamond deposits.
On the other hand, it's hard to believe that 15 marines with medic support or a few large worms slinging 10-inch spikes can attack a battlecruiser (that should really cover half the map) and expect to win.
On custom maps units can have far more armor; it is possible for one unit to have more armor than the damage of the opposing unit at which point it takes one half a point of damage. 19998 hits can actually happen surprisingly quickly.
This trope is the whole point of Zerglings. One Zergling? Not a threat to anything, really. One hundred Zerglings? A significant threat to ground troops even very late in the game.
The Civilization series. In the original game, one lucky roll could allow a warrior with a spear to beat an armored vehicle. Later games in the series expand the rules to make this far more unlikely, but it's still possible.
In Total Annihilation, a fun but useless attack is to build hundreds of "Fleas" and sic them on the enemy. A more useful attack is the "Peewee rush" in which dozens of Peewees can obliterate a base in mere moments.
Also, a couple of dozen Construction Aircraft given orders to recycle can quickly erase enemy structures and units from the map. About the only thing they can't wipe out is the enemy commander, and that's only because he can blow them all up with one shot from his Disintegration Gun.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door averts this, as damage is small enough that the calculation by subtracting defense from attack (used in some other RPGs such as Dragon Quest) is a big deal, and thus attacks that do many weak hits (like Yoshi's stampede) do no damage to enemies with any defense unless their base attack value is boosted.
Still, each multi-hit does less damage than the previous, but as long as the first one does damage, the rest will also do at least 1 HP worth of damage.
In Disgaea, certain characters (the Prinnies come to mind) perform multiple weak attacks instead of one regular-powered attack. But when linked into a combo, the attack value of each hit goes up. Put a Prinny at the end of a multi-character combo and watch every hit (and they land about ten) deal a squidload of damage...
Barring combos, however, the trope is averted; reach a high enough level difference and opponents can no longer harm you — if they even hit you at all.
Same for the Ninja-class units, that see their evasion rate go nigh 100% against any attack from any enemy that isn't more than double their level. A level 1000+ Ninja can easily clear a whole Item World on his own without getting hit once.
Etrian Odyssey III's popular Ikkitousen / Warrior's Might skill allows for a great number of hits, and can be used to kill even bosses in one turn with the right setup.
An odd version was present in the second WarCraft game, where gold mines could be destroyed, though their HP was as high as the game's engine would allow for a unit or structure. This led to interesting sights, such as a group of footmen hacking away at a mine... until it collapsed.
Not to mention archers attacking mines, or other brick structures.
Advance Wars has this. In fact, "infantry spam" is a slow-but-effective strategy for succeeding in any ground war.
The other advantage of an infantry swarm is that, at most, a unit can destroy one other unit per turn (there are ways to attack multiple units, but none of these in any game can actually destroy that unit). Only the most powerful units can one-hit an infantry unit from full health, so it can be quite tricky to fight back the wall. The only problem to using only infantry, as opposed to infantry meat shielding artillery and rockets, is that it takes just as much time and structures to build an infantry as a MegaTank (just much more cash). A Mechanized Infantry rush (Mechs can do considerable damage to any land unit if they strike first) is generally more effective (especially against very large units, where the mech can move up, do a small but notable amount of damage, and get gunned down to make way for more mechs).
Fire Emblem is actually a rather good aversion of this, as if you are too weak, you will deal "No Damage". Thus even if you can only deal one hit point, the concept is that you are strong enough to damage whatever you are fighting, if only barely.
This wasn't always the case, though. In the fourth game, attacks always do at least 1 damage even if they would normally do 0 damage. However, 1 damage is somewhat more negligible in this game than in others (in most games, HP caps at 60; in this game, even the Squishy Wizards will have HP in the low 50s when fully leveled up).
This is a good tactic for any weak unit going through the arena with a sleep sword. To clarify, anything that falls asleep stays asleep for a set number of turns. Turns don't pass while in the arena. Do the math. On the flip side, your sword is guaranteed to break after the arena is done, but since you're making a ton of Arena money in a game where you can repair even completely broken weapons...the only thing preventing this from becoming a downright game breaker is the fact that you can only do the arena so many times.
Not to mention, the AI will even try this on the players by sending dozens of mooks at you gradually chipping away at your health.
In the original Wing Commander, it was possible for even the weakest fighter to destroy any capital ship if you could shoot it enough times. Later games alternated between large capital ships being invulnerable or vulnerable to everything except special "torpedo" missiles.
Similarly, Descent: Freespace allowed a player's guns to do damage to capital ships — very slowly. Freespace 2 averted this trope: Fighter guns could only do a certain amount of damage to capital ships, which had to be killed by either torpedoes or other capital ships.
The early Playstation game Lone Soldier has the eponymous beefslab soldier being able to destroy tanks, walls, armoured bunkers and the like with the default infinite ammo-laden Uzi. By spending several minutes firing at anything destructible in the game (and making it flash to make the player aware of it's status of being hurt) a torrent of 9mm bullets could make buildings not only be destroyed, but destroyed in a giant plume of flame.
In the Star Wars: X-Wing series, a fighter can kill any capital ship with just its laser blasters, though avoiding the capital ship's own turbolaser turrets is a problem. A fighter's ion guns can disable even a Star Destroyer in a few shots, if the shields are down. TIE Fighter and later installments even allow you to destroy subsystems on capital ships, so once you clear away enough guns and disable the engines you can literally park your fighter beside the ship, put a rubber band around the trigger, and go get coffee while the Star Destroyer or Mon Calamari Cruiser slowly dies.
In the Star Wars universe, fighters are considered a major threat to capital ships if they use mass-fire tactics with missile weapons. In fairness to the trope, their lasers are usually depicted as too weak to deal any major damage to a capital ship, but the point stands that Rebel fighters were such a threat to Imperial capital ships that a special ship design composed mostly of a hull and a metric buttload of laser cannons, the Lancer-class frigate, was made just to kill fighters.
Having a TIE screen around was pretty much vital for most Imperial ships. Without their fighter screens, they were vulnerable to Trench Run Disease—the types of tactics that eventually destroyed the first Death Star. Granted, most Star Destroyers didn't have an exhaust port that led straight to the reactor core, but they did have exposed shield generators and the same type of turbolaser batteries. The tactics that win in the video game above? While not as effective in the EU, given enough time and the right conditions, they would eventually kill a Star Destroyer.
In MadWorld, bosses that seem to not sustain much damage from regular attacks (including being sliced with a goddamn chainsaw) can eventually be worn down if you just keep on punching them, although for most there's quicktime sequences you can initiate to damage them much more efficiently.
In EVE Online, a large enough swarm of completely expendable small ships can destroy a flagship costing millions and billions of ISK.
This is generally considered good strategy in the game: frigates (the smallest ships in the game) are also generally the fastest. Cruisers and larger ships have guns that are designed to track and shoot cruisers and larger ships...which move much more slowly than a Frigate. A properly piloted group of frigates can pummel a cruiser all day and not get hit. You need a lot of them in order to inflict enough damage, but...
In Homeworld 2, several ships are built especially to inflict death of a thousand cuts, particularly the bombers and the Vaygr Laser Corvettes. Actually, most small ships can overrun the big guns when given time. Somewhat averted in the sense that some ships do carry enough hull defenses to eventually clear the space of the little ships assailing them.
The first game's expansion, Homeworld Cataclysm, has the drone frigates - ships that have no weapons themselves, but have onboard factories that quickly generate large numbers of drones. Each drone is armed but with one small gun and is practically insignificant by itself, but deadly in large numbers.
In Half-Life, you can shoot down helicopters using machine guns. In the PlayStation 2-only Expansion PackHalf-Life: Decay, you have to. Half-Life 2 was much more sensible about this, with vehicular enemies only vulnerable to explosives.
You can shoot down a helicopter with a machine gun, but only if you're extremely lucky. Such incidents did happen for example in The Vietnam War.
Prior to getting the Mega Buster chargeable Arm Cannon, several Mega Man Classic games had a weapon that was no more effective in damage than the normal gun, but had such a fast rate of fire that players would use them exclusively unless they were out of power or not effective against a given enemy. Examples include the "Metal Blade" (Mega Man 2, aimable) and "Needle Cannon" (Mega Man 3, full-auto in three round bursts).
Vulcans in the Mega Man Battle Network series are probably some form of subversion. They dealt between 10 and 20 damage and hit 3-5 times, which is decent. The trick was that any attack-increasing chip attached to one powers up each bullet. Entire folders were created based on boosting up a Super Vulcan as high as it would go, resulting in a chip with an attack strength of around 150 - times twelve. The same applies to any multiple-hitting chip, actually - Tornado, Twister, and even Bubble Man.
Similarly, one of the Beast Out powerup forms gave you a rapid-firing buster, at the cost of not being able to charge your shots. While normal charged shots can deal around 10 damage at the beginning, Beast Out lets you fire more than 10 bullets in the same time it took to charge, resulting in a flurry of bullets raining down on your opponent (in some cases can even make certain battlechips obsolete).
Model HX in ZX turned out to be a Game Breaker because of this. One of its moves is to create a tornado that sits in one place and attacks 16 times. The final boss was (of course) a One-Winged Angel, and its stationary damage point was just asking to be tornado'd to death.
Similar to Model H is the very first of Mega Man X'sPower Copying attacks, Storm Tornado, considered a Game Breaker due to the fact that one use can score multiple hits on multiple enemies.
A literal example can be performed with Zero in the fourth, fifth, and sixth games in the series. The first hit of his basic Z-Saber combo, while weak, doesn't cause Mercy Invincibility against most of the bosses and can be canceled with a dash then immediately performed again. The amount of hits you can land in the span of a second is practically limited only by how quickly you can alternate the attack and dash buttons (A fact that predictably gets abused to a hilarious degree in tool-assisted speedruns).
Mega Man Zero 3 has the 1000 Slash learned from Deathtanz Mantisk, which sees Zero performing countless stabs with the Recoil Rod so long as the button the Rod's equipped in is pressed several times (it has the drawback of Zero remaining immobile). In Zero 4, the Ice Javelin can also score several hits due to the nature of the projectile.
Wanna know what's the best short-range weapon in most if not all Mechwarrior games? The machine gun. You're supposed to mount one or two to fight infantry, because they do piddling damage individually, but stats-wise (that is, considering ammo load, heat generation and damage) they're the most efficient weapon in the game. Take a large ballistic-weapon-based Mech and load as many machine guns as it can take, and you make it into the ultimate close-range brawler. If more range is needed, small autocannons like the AC2 work well.
Ironically, the heavy weapons are more effective on light mechs, as the things are often too agile to keep a bead on, but it's usually fairly easy to get them in your sights for the split-second necessary to hit them with a PPC or similar weapon.
It usually doesn't pay to choose superheavy mechs (such as the Atlas) in the new Mechwarrior Online game, unless you're a pro who actually knows how to use them. They're powerful and heavily armored, but very slow both to move and turn, which means all that armor simply delays your death when, inevitably, a bunch of light scout Mechs start walking around you and peppering you with light lasers until they erode it all away.
On the other hand, said heavy mech's best weapon against light mechs is the same thousand cuts, by spewing out a constant stream of laser, or light autocannon fire, to simply make it so that at all times there's something firing, and to then wave the cursor in large sweeps, dealing minimal damage each time, but to a Light Mech they're still notable, and can't be dodged.
Theoretically averted in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, where the armour types system means that most basic infantry are not supposed to scratch the toughest armour types. In practice, however, Scratch Damage still occurs. Nevertheless, fans have made mods that indeed make buildings impervious to small arms.
In a later Relic game, Company of Heroes, this is completely averted in the case of actual tanks. While rifles may indeed do light damage to armored cars or scout vehicles, they will do NOTHING to a tank, even attacking their weaker rear armor. Strangely, this doesn't carry entirely over to the critical hit table: infantry dealing enough dakka to the back of armored vehicles may eventually deal engine damage, even if the vehicle's HP is full.
This trend was continued with the sequel to Dawn of War, with the notable exception that some common weapons really are powerful enough to do light damage to tanks — the Space Marine bolter fires high explosive rockets, and Ork weapons aren't too much weaker than that, especially since they bring More Dakka.
In Halo: Combat Evolved, it is possible to bring down most Covenant vehicles simply by shooting them enough with small arms and grenades. You can also do this in the later games in the Halo series, though getting enough ammunition to pull this off takes some time, and the enemy vehicles are much better at killing infantrymen.
Ghosts are your friend. It's possible to take out EVERYTHING DESTROYABLE in that game with these nimble machines. Problem is, they're not too durable themselves... but you can take on a Phantom and disable ALL of its guns without dying.
Halo Wars has this, specifically with the Elephant Tank. This tank can train its own infantry, allowing you to set up small bases of power independent of your main base. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your mood), most players just park a handful of Elephant Tanks near the enemy and use their production capabilities to feed cannon-fodder into the nearest battle, conveyor belt style.
Alternatively it is possible to upgrade the standard marine squads into ODST squads at which point you can rain them from the sky onto any location not covered by fog of war.
In Freelancer, it's not rare to find yourself taking out entire fleets by yourself with just your guns, enough repair supplies, and the will of the Holy Spirit, and this is thanks to each shot dealing at least a little bit of damage. In fact, a popular Self-Imposed Challenge in one of the late missions involves destroying 3 battleships, 5 cruisers and 6 gunships.
In Age of Empires and 2, a large enough number of guys with swords can storm a castle. Age of Empires III has all characters who can damage a building use a separate siege attack — an inexhaustible supply of torches.
Doesn't even need to be a large number - if the building can't shoot arrows at you (or sometimes even that, as towers need technology to shoot at their feet) one swordsman is enough!
There's even legends being passed around about an archer who was the only survivor of an invading army headed for the enemy's town. He was forgotten about and later discovered by the second wave of attackers, who have found that he shot arrows at the town's stone walls, dealing 1 damage per arrow. The wall had already started crumbling before him.
Spearmen and Pikemen are more effective against War Elephants than Swordsmen; they get a bonus against cavalry, and the fact that in this case the "cavalry" are pachyderms isn't factored in. One will hurt an elephant pretty badly before he dies, and three or four will kill one.
Ginormo Sword. While the object (sorta) of the game is to boost your weapon of choice to levels at which it covers the entire screen, the strongest monsters can still take hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of hits to suffer any sort of dent in their HP — even when your strength stat is in the thousands.
Ragnarok Online's battle system takes into account how many enemies are attacking you at a given time. If the number of enemies you are fighting goes above a certain threshold, your DEF and FLEE get reduced by a certain amount per enemy. Therefore, it is possible to have a sufficient number of Porings handily trounce a level 99 knight.
Averted somewhat in Fallout1, 2 and Tactics: final attack damage is calculated first by subtracting any Damage Threshold offered by a character's armor from the attacker's rolled damage, then subtracting from any leftover damage the character's Damage Resistance, a percentile: for example, Powered Armor in the first game had 12/40 protection against normal damage, making the sniper rifle the only weapon guaranteed to cause damage outside of critical hits. Bethesda's Fallout 3 eliminates DT and only uses DR for armor, meaning that even the toughest hombre wearing heavy-duty powered armor can still be stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.
Though DT was reintroduced in Fallout New Vegas, all attacks now have a minimum percentage of damage that 'leaks' through armor, no matter the Damage Treshold. Thus one can still kill a Tougher-than-tough Alpha Male Deathclaw or a Brotherhood of Steel Paladin in shiny near impregnable armor, with a straight razor...
Given rather odd forms sometimes with the ability to target specific areas on your enemies. The Deathclaw's weakness (in the first game) are its eyes, but it's a tough enemy to beat even if you know that... so you'll end up shooting and hitting it in the eyes and severely damaging them again and again for several minutes before it actually has any effect (and the creature dies).
The JoJo's Bizarre Adventure game averts this trope. If you continuously block hits while not having a Stand out, you will suffer Scratch Damage until your health reaches zero, at which point you will stop taking Scratch Damage. This prevents you from dying by this method, although it's relatively easy to get past one's guard in this game, so turtling is still not an option.
Both of the Touhou fighters do this as well. Making this even more annoying in the first fighter is the fact that certain moves explicitly cannot kill a blocking opponent even if that block is incorrect and the blocker is guard crushed.
In Deus Ex, the toughest single standard enemy is likely the military bot. These are like fifteen feet tall, and have chainguns and rocket launchers. Destroying them usually requires multiple hits from a rocket launcher. But one thing: they can only shoot forward, and they turn slowly. So it's not only possible, but easy to destroy one with a combat knife, as long as no other enemies are around: stand behind it and attack continuously for a few minutes, walking in circles to stay behind as it turns to face you. Eventually it will blow up. If you're not careful you'll lose a limb, admittedly, but at least you won't have wasted any ammo.
In Battlefield 2142, heavily-armored battlewalkers have a Weak Spot that can be attacked with everything but your combat knife. Unless it's an actual anti-vehicle weapon, each hit will do Scratch Damage. Fortunately for the walker pilot, no applicable firearm can wear down the walker in one salvo: all non-machine guns have limited rounds per magazine, and all machine guns suffer from overheating.
A better example would be the Titan battleships. Once its shields have come down, its vital components can be attacked with, again, everything but knives. Granted, it takes more bullets than any one player carries at one time to wear down everything, but it's entirely possible to take down a Titan by shooting enough lead at its tender spots.
Mostly averted in Bliztkrige where weaponry needs to have a sufficient penetration value in order to pierce the armor of a vehicle. If the armor of the vehicle being shot at is higher then the penetration value there's a chance that the shell will fail to do any damage. If the armor is higher by a large enough margin, then the shell will never do damage. Hence anti-tank rifles, light AT guns, and armored cars are useless against a Panther or KV tank.
On the other hand, infantry carry anti-tank grenades, which in addition to doing a small amount of damage, can also disable the treads of a tank, leaving it paralyzed until a support vehicle repairs it.
The Monster Hunter franchise lives off this trope, with many of the monsters commonly taking over half an hour to slay.
Age of Mythology: The Titans makes this necessary, as nothing in the game can kill a Titan in one shot. Not even the instant-kill god power Bolt, which only takes out 1300 of the Titan's 8,000 HP. Typical human units do about 10 points of damage to the Titan and try to wear it down, heroes being better at damaging them.
Even more so, fighting the enemy's army with your Titan will generally lead to your large titan being wasted. Target their buildings, or expect to lose your Titan to Scratch Damage.
Especially so if your opponent is Egyptian, remember that heroes deal extra damage to mythical units, Titans ARE Mythical Units and that Egyptian priests are considered heroes... Add that to the fact that Mythological Age Priests have a very good range for attacks and a decent attack rating, as well as being decently cheap... Well, let's just say that an army of old dudes could very easily kill Cerberus.
In Star Wars: Empire at War you can take down AT-ATsnote The big, four-legged ones from Hoth. with squads of blaster-pistol-wielding infantry.
Turn-based strategy games in general tend to have this as a strategy: Go up to a unit. Attack it. You do some damage, it kills you. Pick your next guy. Go up to a unit... In Battle for Wesnoth it's actually such a prevalent strategy for the Undead that many fans of the game use the term "Walker-corpsing" to refer to this strategy in other games.
Averted in the Cossacks series, where infantry cannot attack buildings with muskets. Buildings can thus only be destroyed by grenades, fire arrows or artillery.
The Iron Golem in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow takes 9999 hits to kill... assuming you normal attack it. But using a certain soul can swap its monster HP with its almost nonexistent MP, killing it in well... one hit.
The Knife item crash. Knives/daggers are usually pitifully weak and a waste of Hearts, but throw dozens of them... Some of the crashes don't even take Hearts, but use constantly regenerating MP. Very good in Harmony of Dissonance and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night; the latter features Richter Belmont shredding even Galamoth with it. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin fittingly calls it something like "1,000 Blades".
Jurassic Park Chaos Island includes many playable characters from the movies, and also assistants you can recruit for menial tasks. If you face a T-Rex, you can send in your stronger characters, and risk getting them killed- or send an army of assistants, who all have weak attacks. If you do this, the T-rex will be confused and spin around without actually attacking anyone. It takes a while, but eventually the weak assistants will be able to kill it.
The modus operandi of Metaknight in Super Smash Brothers. However, subverted in that some of his moves have a lot of knockback, particularly his Final Smash.
In Heroes Of Annihilated Empires, this is a pretty good way of taking out hero units, since although they can have defenses of over a hundred, all attacks cause at least one point of damage (and you typically attack with several hundred at a time). Also inverted, since one of the best strategies in the game is to create a horde of skeletons (cheapest unit, cost-wise) and about a hundred skeleton captains (who give an unlimited stacking bonus of + 1 to defense). The result is an army of 1000 creatures with 30 hp each taking on pretty much anything else in the game.
Most high level raid bosses in World of Warcraft die this way, especially those from before the expansions.
Archimonde at the climax of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. He's killed by thousands of wisps, nature spirits with an ability called Detonate, which sends them suicide bombing on summoned units. Guess how Archimonde got into Azeroth.
Back in the classic version of the game, Shaman had windfury weapon, a self-enchantment that had a chance to proc an extra hit instantly, though this has since been changed, it had no internal cooldown, thus with a stroke of luck, it was possible for winfury to proc off of windfury which procs off another windfury which keeps proccing, if the stars aligned, a raid boss could be taken out in one hit by a storm of lucky windfury procs.
Also from classic the Paladin talent reckoning can lead to this: each time you gain a critical hit, your next hit gains an extra attack. Now what happens if you don't fight back? The buff of reckoning just counted upwards. So a crafty player got a rogue friend to attack him with daggers for hours to receive as much critical hits as possible, that alone may count, but then he runs up to Kazzak back in the days one of the hardest bosses around and Unleashed the Reckoning Bomb in one Attack, also each Paladin attack procs another attack from his seal, doubling the attacks again: so he killed one of the hardest bosses in the game with 3600 hits within a few seconds. For reference see here. Also note this talent was hotfixed in the next day after this video to only stay for 8 seconds and cant build up for hours.
This can also be invoked by players. One version happens when a high level player goes AFK with their PVP flag on. As long as the lower level player can do more DPS than the other's natural HP regen, it's only a matter of time before the higher level player dies. Another method is to send a swarm of noobs at the higher level player, in the form of a noob raid.
One of the more resilient examples occurs in the Battle of Skyhook in the Shadows of the Empire game. At one point in the battle, a Star Destroyer shows up and starts unleashing TIE fighters. It is possible to damage the Destroyer with your single ship's lasers and unlimited missiles, but the damage is hardly noticeable. It takes pounding on it for hours before the damage registers from 100% to 99%.
Compare that to how quickly they go down in the movies.
Sarevok, the Big Bad from Baldur's Gate, naturally takes quite a few hits to take down in the game. Well, in the cinematics at the beginning of the sequel, he's shown in a flashback as having died with about fifteen arrows and four larger implements still sticking out of his chest. These aren't small injuries, mind; presumably he was just that tough.
One strategy for beating some Gym Leaders in the Pokémon games, especially with underleveled Pokémon, is to spam moves like Growl or Sand Attack with one's lead Pokémon, or Defense Curl, etc. with the strongest (though still underleveled) Mon on the team, or perhaps X Attack or X Defend. After that, it's usually a matter of slooooooowly taking down the leader's first Pokémon, and repeating Attack-stat debuffs when the next one comes out. This is notably used on the first Gym Leaders who use Rock-types: Brock, Roxanne, and Roark.
Also, there's a YouTube video of a level 20 Shedinja vs. level 99 Blissey. Unless Shedinja has been specifically bred with Silver Wind, its most dangerous anti-Normal attack is Fury Cutter (since Blissey is immune to its devastating Shadow Ball).
Devastating is an overstatement. Shedinja's Special Attack is nowhere close to making it a viable tactic In the first three generations of Pokémon games, all Ghost-type moves ran off of one's Attack stat. Still, though, Shedinja is very good at the Death of a Thousand Cuts since its ability means that it's completely immune to most attacks. Sure, there are a lot of ways around it, but there's usually no need to worry about that outside of the metagame. Therefore, as long as its PP holds up, it can eventually defeat anyone that can't touch it, regardless of level disadvantages.
"With Bug Bite, Kakuna is not walled by the likes of Steelix and Steel-type Arceus. As a matter of fact, Bug Bite's addition lowers max HP / max Def Steelix from a 94-hit-KO to a 36HKO. Max HP Steel-type Arceus is now a 25 HKO, while min HP/Def Psychic Arceus is a 22HKO."
The video game adaptation of the Trading Card Game ran into a problem of this nature. Because the coin flips in the game have predetermined outcomes, nothing is actually random, and so chains of heads or tails come up far more times than chance allows. Thus, if a Pokémon has a paralysis-inducing attack, there is a much greater chance that the player can paralyze the opponent every turn until the Defending Pokémon is knocked out — even if the attack is very weak and the defense has a lot of HP.
Subverted in O Game whenever the '1 percent' rule comes into play. Assuming an attack would deal less damage than one percent of the target ship's shield strength, that attack is negated entirely - thus making the amusing prospect of taking down a Death Star with a Light Fighter impossible.
Human military soldiers have to do this in Prototype, because they simply can't do that much damage. It's a different story if they have grenade or missile launchers, but generally the rifle-carrying soldiers will just pour bullets into you until you stop moving.
In Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, it's possible to use any punch an unlimited number of times if you have enough stamina. If it's fast enough that the opponent can't block the second after the first connects, you can get a knockdown using only that one basic low-damage punch. This not only is the most effective strategy in the game, it's pretty much the only way to get knockouts in Gold class, as your opponents will simply block all your high-damage shots. The most blatant example is Damien Black, a huge demon with a pulverizing 5-hit combo and a simple right to the body that takes off a massive chunk of life. And a boring little jab. Guess what he's going to be doing all the time once everything else stops connecting. Ready 2 Rumble Round 2 subverts this somewhat, as it's no longer possible to do unlimited fast punches and Rumble Flurries are more effective, but you'll still get far more mileage out of simple jabs and straights than any of the specialties (many of which now do barely more damage than the basic punches anyway).
Because of this, Resident Evil's combat knife will soon find its eternal resting place in the storage box.
"One Thousand Cuts" is actually the name of the final power of the Dual Blades powerset in City of Heroes. Though the animation seems to indicate it is only a couple dozen slashes at most, and the power only deals twelve separate ticks of damage, those ticks of damage are individually lower than most other slashes in the powerset yet add up to become the strongest power in the set.
In X3 (all three games) the Kha'ak destroyer is one of the most fearsome ships you can face, having a whole lot of shields and hull points, and being armed with beam weapons. However, there's a small spot behind the engine where its turrets can't reach. You can't kill it with a light fighter, because the shields recharge faster than light weapons can bring them down, but a suitably armed heavy fighter can park itself behind the behemoth and pour laser fire in it until it dies. Assuming, of course, other enemy ships have been dealt with beforehand.
Not totally true. One race's basic fighter mounts shield ignoring Mass Drivers. It requires a mere 54 crates of ammo, and the balls of steel to get behind it to pull this off.
Of course, in Terran Conflict you can also take the opposite route and hop into a Mighty Glacier such as a Terran Osaka destroyer. Nothing the Kha'ak have can even scratch the paint, and it'll rip through them in seconds.
The player risks being on the receiving end in Kha'ak and Xenon sectors. Such sectors will spawn enemies without end, which will eventually wear you down.
Dronespam. Stuff a freighter or frigate with fighter drones (you can fit thousands), then eject them all at once. There is no way for the computer to respond to that.
Normally, you can't do this in Desktop Dungeons. If you injure an enemy, then retreat to heal up, the enemy will also heal. However, Poison in this game cancels regeneration. So a very viable strategy is to attack an enemy until the next hit would kill you, cast APHEELSIK (the Poison spell), then retreat until you're at full health and resume. This is how the Assassin (the class that unlocks APHEELSIK) works.
Dwarf Fortress gives us the nightmarish player character, MEATGOD. Meatgod was a player who wore adamant armor, and carried a little bronze hammer. Because Meatgod liked to get to know his enemies as he slowly beat his enemies to death with a dinky little hammer, he became legendary for his horrible actions (there's a MEATGOD achievement on the forums, for killing a megabeast with a no quality weapon). He once took on seven giants over a period of several days. The first couple of days, the giants would go at him, and he'd pound them until they collapsed from exhaustion. Then he'd leave and come back the next day. After a couple of days, they started running away at the sight of him. A couple days after that, they couldn't run anymore, due to having broken legs. On the last day, they didn't even try to struggle anymore, either due to exhaustion, blood loss, and painful injuries, or perhaps just that after several days of slow and torturous beatings, they welcomed death with open arms.
Metal Slug: Sure, there are weapons like the Rawket Launcha and the Heavy Machine Gun, but it's definitely possible to take down any boss (be it tank, alien, robot, or even a battleship on treads) with enough shots from a regular pistol.
Not just possible - often required. Being rather Nintendo Hard for most players, it happens more often than not that a boss will kill at least one of your lives. When that happens, a replacement weapon for your new life is not at all guaranteed, often leaving you stuck with the pistol.
This is almost always the fate of the player in Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!; no matter how good you play, eventually the human forces will overwhelm you with attacks faster than your ability to heal/recover.
It is theoretically possible to destroy a tank with small-arms fire in Jagged Alliance 2 v1.13 thanks to some armor-piercing rounds (like heavy sniper calibers) having the "Damage Tanks" flag. Fortunately, it is extremely unlikely to survive the tank's retaliation if it manages to interrupt any of your attacks.
This can end up being a default strategy for Disco Bandits and Accordion Thieves in Kingdom of Loathing. Since these two classes focus on Moxie (the stat by which your chance-to-dodge is calculated), it's entirely possible to be so smooth as to be completely untouchable, but your own damage-dealing capabilities are somewhat under par, so it's just a question of whether or not you have the kind of time it takes to beat the bugger.
D Bs do have Moxious Maneuver to resort to, though.
In Mass Effect 2 on Haestrom, Kal'Reegar mentions that standard procedure for fighting a geth colossus is to "kill it with bug bites".
Time consuming as it may be, it is possible to kill a Cyberdemon in Doom with nothing but your bare fists (and without resorting to the Berserker pack). Very difficult due to the Cyberdemon's persistence combined with its HP. Doom II on the Xbox 360 recognizes this feat and will actually award the player an Achievement for doing sonote Though it actually doesn't care how you get there, just that the killing hit is scored by a punch..
This is the Necessary Drawback of the Fragile Speedster characters in Dissidia: Final Fantasy—that is, the Onion Knight and Zidane. Both of them are extremely fast and agile, but the majority of their Brave combos (unless they grossly outmatch, in levels, equipment, or both, the opponent) will deal single-digit damage per hit. However, their combos have a lot of hits, and they move really quickly, meaning that this isn't necessarily as nonviable as it may sound at first. Interestingly, despite both relying on the thousand cuts strategy, according to the people who make tier sheets one is very high-tier while the other is extremely low-tier.
Black & White 2 went out of its way to avert this by basing its combat on its physics engine, its developers specifically citing the "thousands of spears bringing down a brick wall" scenario as what they were trying to avoid.
Robot Alchemic Drive forces you to do this in one mission, where your giant robot is locked into its transformed mode and can't effectively attack. Thus, you're forced to huck grenades at the enemy giant robot's ankles for 10 minutes before it goes down.
Tales of the Abyss: If you dare to fight the Unicerous on Unknown Mode, your party will have this effect, even the ones who can use the kind of magic that the Unicerous is weak to (Dark). Jade is unquestionably the worst, doing one damage since most of his special attacks are wind-based and the Unicerous is immune to Wind and Light. It's not impossible, and it IS possible to do more damage, provided you're at a much, much higher level.
This applies to most bosses on Unknown Mode. Arietta, Dist all three times, Abaddon, and many more can only have their tens of thousands of health slowly whittled down, one hit point at a time, even if you use 10x experience on New Game+ to be at a much higher level than normal.
In Gratuitous Space Battles, this is how fighters not armed with torpedoes kill cruisers, by swarming over them firing lasers and rockets at point-blank into their hulls. Heavily-armored cruisers can be nearly immune to this abuse, as their plating will be so thick that enemy shots will just deflect off, but every shot has a chance to inflict a "lucky shot" that does some damage to the enemy ship's armor. Once the armor is stripped away by enough lucky hits (or heavy weapons like torpedoes or cruiser beam weapons) the cruiser will be vulnerable to fighter weapons. At that point, watching the ensuing assault by fighters is akin to watching piranhas tearing a body to bits.
In Jade Empire, the Player Character can learn a style called "Thousand Cuts," which unsurprisingly emphasizes speed and many fast, light hits.
The bosses in The Legend of Zelda series are defeated in this way...literally, as Link's main weapon is a sword.
Beat Hazard has an achievement bearing the same name as this trope. You just have to find it here. 
In MOBA games, there are some characters who specialize by Cherry Tapping people a bunch of times. Especially if they are dependent on Attack-speed or spamming their abilities really fast.
Ezrael in League of Legends basically does this with his abilities. He is capable of bursting, but oftentimes he does just this.
Juggernaut and Fiora have Omnislash as their ults in Dot A and League of Legends, respectively. When there are groups, they jump from enemy to enemy rapidly striking them. When they are alone, however...
In Minecraft, it's completely possible to take down the Ender Dragon (200 HP) with snowballs (1 damage each).
This is the basis of "A Thousand Deaths", a 50-hit Branch Combo belonging to one of the most powerful combo trees in Cross Edge.
Vega Strike has Subsystem Damage probability per hull hit, so once armor is broken, shield-piercing weapons become very efficient, even if weak on raw damage (and most are).
Mini Drivers has good effective range and mediocre rate of fire, but lower damage per second than for any other Medium or even Light weapon, except Micro-driver (it's at least faster and thus useful against missiles). So low that the weakest Deflector Shields stop 2 hits at once and the shield-bypassing part needs 100 hits to breach the weakest armor — then it's more likely to break shield generator than kill the hull outright. Even shuttles not armed with anything better got much stronger shields, while balls aren't very fast and miss anything maneuverable as often as not. The main weapon of "Redeemer" are two mini-drivers, the purpose of which seems to be inciting the hatred of Luddites: an encounter almost always ends only in paying for armor repair. Yet the communicator logs show kill messages by Redeemers, sometimes against fairly good ships.
In a less emphasized fashion, lasers: they are weak, but got long range and shield-piercing, so a ship opens fire earlier and kills gradually by strafes rather than going in for an overwhelming barrage.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land has this for the titular Kirby. You can block attacks, but many enemies (and all bosses) will do a tiny bit of damage through the guard, unless you have the Ice ability or Leaf ability. Depending on the duration of an attack, guarding can sometimes cause Kirby to take more total damage due to the number of hits taken.
A sidequest in Assassin's Creed III involves Connor being sent to find an Über-bear that has been terrorizing the locals. A normal bear takes three strikes from the hidden blade to bring down. This one takes six. Of course, combat with dangerous animals boils down to Press X to Not Die.
In Little Busters, a number of the weapons count (though the 20-turn limit prevents extreme cases), but the best example is Rin's cats. Although they won't hit for very much each, as the game goes on and she trains with them more and more, she can be hitting over 10 times every turn. It's precisely because of this that Rin becomes very hard to beat by the end of the battle segments.
Fragile Speedsters in Fighting Games with particularly open-ended combo systems can invoke this. Once they get their Combo going, damage scaling will mean that even heavy attacks will deal almost no damage, with the character's damage output being determined more by how long the combo lasts rather than how hard they actually hit. The best example of such a character in recent memory is probably Dante in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, as seen here.
Pikmin. It doesn't matter how much HP that gargantuan monstrosity has, there's no foe that can't be vanquished by throwing more Pikmin at it and letting 20+ pairs of tiny fists do the work for you.
Alternatively, you can attack enemies directly if your captain doesn't have any Pikmin available for tossing by punching them, which does only marginally more damage then a hit from the weakest of Pikmin. Regardless, it's actually a viable tactic against some foes (As long as you have time to spare), as a number of them are completely incapable of harming you, but can do a number on your Pikmin.
This is effective in Stars! , a 16-bit 4X space empire game, due to limitations in the variable handling. An attack always causes at least 1/512th damage to a stack of ships, which means a full stack of huge battlecruisers can be destroyed by a large number of scouts with a single torpedo each. Invoking this intentionally is often considered cheating, but there's a fine line between abuse and effective use of small ship tactics. It's not terribly hard to defend against, however.
Averted in Dragon Ball Z: Infinite World. Guarded attacks deal scratch damage, and enough scratch damage is theoretically enough to defeat an opponent, right? Well no. Why? Because the game is designed specifically to avoid this trope by making it so that you can't be defeated by a guarded attack.
In Xenonauts, this trope is the default tactic used against stronger Sebillians, especially before advanced weaponry is researched.
In Clonk, thrown objects such as rocks deal Scratch Damage. Throwing dozens at a monster from somewhere it can't reach you is a viable tactic.
This is how blasters and blaster rifles end up working in Might and MagicVI and VII. Their base damage isn't that impressive for the later part of the game (when you get them — they're Lost Technology]]), especially since it can't be improved. Their rare of fire, on the other hand, is very high, and so is their ability to actually hit things (outside the blast being blocked by walls). Combine with a unique damage type that no monster is resistant or immune to, and bombarding enemies with dozens of blaster shots becomes a valid (even necessary, in one case) end-game tactic.
In DM of the Rings Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas kill the Oliphaunt by repeatedly stabbing him. In the toe.
Schrodinger the Cat in Captain SNES is taking out Kain's 9999 hit points one by one.
In Oglaf a swordmaster instructs his apprentice on how to defeat a larger, stronger opponent by seeking victory over one limb at a time.
In Kid Radd, The Seer, having fused several video game characters together and possessed the fusion, has 9999 HP, but only takes one point of damage at a time.
In the Leetworld, one character mentions having a dream where someone murders him with "An eggbeater and some perseverance".
In The Itchy & Scratchy Show, Scratchy lifts weights to toughen up his body against Itchy's assaults. Itchy, seeing his massive chest, pokes it with a pin, to no effect. He then zips around at super speed, poking Scratchy countless times all over his chest, causing Scratchy to bleed profusely and allowing Itchy to commit further mayhem on the weakened cat.
A common hacker attack involve sending thousands of small data packets hoping to invoke this trope.
The Grand Canyon, or any other land mass sculpted by water or wind.
The name "Death of/by a Thousand Cuts" originally referred to a Chinese method of execution better translated as "slow slicing" for the most treasonous of traitors to the state, eg. the leaders of rebellions against the Emperor. The condemned man was tied up and had strips of flesh slowly removed before being decapitated. The longest execution of this kind took 3 days and 3,357 cuts.
The Persians were generally a merciful lot as imperial powers go, usually letting you run things the way you always had so long as you didn't rebel and paid your taxes on time. Even if you did rebel, only a select few leaders would be executed, usually by beheading, and they would generally give you something you wanted. However, they could be nasty when they had to be, and they had their own form of death by a thousand cuts: Scaphism. Replacing the knives with bees and bacteria, Scaphism (or "the boats") was reserved for the most grievous traitors—not mere rebels, but those who had personally betrayed the Shah for venal motives.
A (supposedly) favored execution method of the originalCaligula, accompanied by words to the effect of 'Let him feel that he is dying.'
The ludicrously high rate of fire and the ability to sustain this without the barrels melting in less than a minute also makes gatling guns particularly useful for ground support: the sheer amount of dakka projected by a Minigun can be used to cut down trees and tear chunks out of concrete, making for a very literal application of this trope in regards to firing at enemies in fortified positions. In the case of the massive 30mm GAU-8 Avenger mounted on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, they can even drill through the top armour of a tank.
In early World War One, Zeppelin airships were an absolute bitch to take out, contrary to the commonmisconception. Zeppelins could withstand thousands of bulletsnote provided they weren't incendiary bullets, which were later invented to exploit their Hydrogen Achilles' Heel, though even them had to be spent lots of to get enough air mixed to the hydrogen to cause a fire, and barely noticed heavy artillery and autocannon fire. This is because it has immense volume and size, but is under no pressure. A single bullet hole in one of the thirty gas cells is like a single straw sucking a swimming pool- one that's two football fields long and seven stories deep. However, if enough dakka was directed at it at, it could sink. This Rasputinian Death is how several Army Zeppelins met their fate- one was shot down by a pair of battleships and a submarine, another was ambushed by two separate fullisades of anti-aircraft guns in the Ukraine, got its forward gondola blown up, and still made it all the way back to Germany, but imploded like a beached whale when the Hydrogen leaked so much it could no longer support its weight on the ground.
This can apply to finances as well. While the traditional saying is "penny wise pound foolish", it is possible for one to be cautious with large amounts but fritter away small amounts many times, such that at the end of the month you're wondering where your money went.
Case in point, people are cautious about spending $60 on a new game, but every time Steam has one of their redonkulous sales (weekends, summer, holidays, and sometimes just because) where AAA titles that aren't even a half-year old go for up to 80% off, and you buy them by the truckload thinking "Oh, it's only $10/$5".
Smartphone apps make their money the same way. People often have a threshold where they start to become concerned with finances, most apps and other digital downloads (such as songs on iTunes) are often priced under it, making it much more likely to impulse buy them. If you're not careful, it can be easy to bleed your bank account 99 cents at a time.
This is a known principle in government, business and management; the best way to kill off an unwanted program is by denying it funding on a incremental basis, or what Ronald Reagan's followers referred to as "starving the beast".
This has been invoked by news analysts to describe Al-Qaeda's strategy against countries like the United States who increase their airport security to extreme measures (such as the giant full-body scanners and thorough pat-downs of every passenger), these measures essentially bleeding away at American wallets and patience.
A major example of it was done by the Royal Italian Army against the Austro-Hungarian Empire: the Italians were woefully underequipped in spite of the efforts of their high command to procure the needed machine guns, gas masks, helmets and artillery (they never got enough gas masks and only barely enough machine guns and helmets. Artillery, on the other hand, became ludicrously numerous), but the Austro-Hungarians could afford much less combat losses, and the Italian commanders-in-chief (first Luigi Cadorna and, after Caporetto, Armando Diaz) banked on this, slowly destroying the Austro-Hungarians over three years before the offensive of Vittorio Veneto caused the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Army and the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself.
Arguably, this was a deconstruction: Cadorna was a royal idiot whose strategy made some degree of sense when the Habsburgs were fighting on multiple fronts, but whose execution of it was still insanely incompetent and flawed to the point where they had made negligable progress by the time the Eastern allies collapsed and the Austro-Hungarian and German troops flooded their way and made this strategy unworkable. It got to the point where the Italian military more or less protested his horrific treatment of them by refusing to fight a major battle, causing Cadorna to be sacked by Diaz. Diaz then proceeded to get aid from the other Western Allies, rearm, reorganize, and resupply to form the Italian Military- and attached Allied forces- into a Badass Army that was responsible for smashing the German and Habsburg armies on that front. So sometimes, this trope just isn't worth it.
Happened to the World War IIJapaneseKongo-class battleship Hiei, which has the dubious honor of being perhaps the only battleship ever to be lost to cruiser fire. The First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was a night fight at close range, with the towering Hiei being the focus of American destroyers and cruisers, one of which — San Francisco — landed an 8-inch shell in the steering compartment, in addition to wrecking the superstructure. In fairness, the Kongo-class were built to emphasize speed and maneuverability at the expense of armor.
For quite a while, the idea of using attack planes or boats against large targets (such as battleships or major bases) took on this form. A single plane was unlikely to lay in single hit without getting knocked out of the air, nor could it carry enough firepower to do any lasting damage to most major targets. But dozens of attackers working in coordination could overwhelm the defenders, and cause cumulative damage through repeated hits. Punch enough smaller holes in a big ship, and it will begin to take on water faster than the crew can pump it out. Hit an important subsystem, and a ship might lose fire coordination, or power to its gun turrets, or the ability to steer itself, or even cause it to leave a tell-tale trail of oil making escape impossible, leaving it far more vulnerable to repeated attacks.
In 2008, emerging superstar boxer Manny Pacquiao faced fading but seemingly still serviceable legend Oscar De La Hoya in a David Versus Goliath match. Being as De La Hoya was twice Pacquiao's size and possessed a formidable jab and left hook, it was nearly unanimous that De La Hoya would use the jab to control the bout and probably KO Pacquiao with his killer hook. Instead Pacquiao effortlessly crushed De La Hoya, beating him repeatedly for round after round, but not being able to knock out De La Hoya due to the size difference and De La Hoya's iron jaw. During the fight commentator Larry Merchant explicitly referenced this trope, calling the bout "Death by a thousand left hands".
Army ants embody this trope. Each column comprises well over a million ants. Whenever they run across anything living, the entire column will crawl all over it and bite it until it dies, then rip it to pieces to feed their larvae. There are reports of animals the size of horses being shredded by a single column.
This can be seen in a less lethal light in Professional Wrestling—many wrestlers have had their careers ended by the accumulated effects of multiple relatively minor injuries rather than one major injury.
Some criticise Wing Chun as teaching the use of reportedly weaker multi-hit combos rather than supposedly more decisive single blows, all other things equal. A detailed breakdown we will probably stay away from unless a troper with mastery in both WC and a "harder" style can correct this.
"Some" might not realise that the fast jabs are generally substitutes for the blocks of other styles, rather than for the harder strikes. Simply put, the opponent cannot hit you effectively if you can hit him (in the face) first. Speed is more important than power in this context.
Many predators will tear off flesh of their prey (while the prey is still alive) and follow the prey around until it dies of blood loss. Of course, this is isn't "death by tiny cuts" but more of "death by torn off chunks of flesh."
Execution by stoning can invoke this.
Radiation poisoning is the ultimate example of this. A few particles are harmless, but a few trillion can kill anything.
Barring an allergic reaction, a single sting from an Africanized honey bee probably won't kill you. However, once the swarm comes out of their hive to attack you, you will quickly realize why they are more commonly known as "killer bees".