On one end of the scale of Conservation of Ninjutsu
is the Zerg Rush
. On the other end is the Elite Army
Instead of sending endless waves of disposable mooks
at the enemy, this army relies on a small amount of very deadly soldiers to win the battle.
They're up against a Redshirt Army
that outnumbers them five to one, but the Redshirt Army
doesn't stand a chance. Maybe they have superior training. Maybe they have better equipment. Maybe they're all Super Soldiers
. Maybe its a combination of the three. The point is, a soldier in this army is worth five of the enemy's and such a statement will usually be made.
This usually means each individual will be much more valuable so No One Gets Left Behind
Basically, while the Zerg Rush
is Quantity Over Quality, the Elite Army
is Quality Over Quantity. When it's just one soldier doing all this alone, it's a One-Man Army
When they are the bad guys, they are Elite Mooks
This is usually a Badass Army
, but it specifically refers to when the army is smaller than most other armies but still capable of fighting on equal terms.
Deconstructions usually involve addressing the cost of raising and maintaining the troops or the lack of numbers.
Anime & Manga
- Berserk has the group of mercenaries known as the Band Of The Hawk, featuring Guts and Griffith. Only 5,000 strong, they routinely destroyed much larger forces with few casualties, culminating when they defeated a force of 30,000 supposedly "elite" enemy knights fortified in a castle known for being impregnable. It took capturing their commander unarmed outside of battle, ambushing them without any weapons or armor, wearing them down through attrition over the course of a year, and finally literally dragging them to Hell and Zerg Rushing them with an army of immortal demons to finally bring them down.
- When applied to high school delinquents, one example is "Kitano's Hekikuu Army" in Angel Densetsu. They have only four main fighters but won a fight against a far more numerous enemy force in the last chapter.
- In Ikki Tousen this pretty much describes Seitou's combat force. Other forces such as Kyoushou appears to have plenty of Red Shirts sprinkled with a few Elite Mooks but Seitou generally has to rely on Kan'u or Chou'un to repulse any concerted assault.
- Bleach: The Zero Division is the Spirit King's Praetorian Guard. They only appear when the 3,000-strong Gotei 13 has faced an enemy its strength is outmatched against. The Zero Division consists of five individuals who together possess more power and strength than the entire Gotei 13 combined.
- In Attack on Titan, despite that only the top 10 trainees in each class can join the Military Police, it's the weakest of the three corps because of their almost total lack of experience. The Survey Corps, which is also the least respected by the way, is the most powerful one, since they fight titans all the time. Soldiers who survive their first battle are regarded as real soldiers by Erwin Smith, which means the Military Police is full of "pseudo-soldiers".
- 300 Spartans against the entire Persian Empire. The Persians eventually kill the Spartans, but it takes a hell of a lot of soldiers.
- The Persian Immortals are supposed to be this, but don't live up to it.
- Weaver Nine features the Society, a group of morally-ambiguous castoffs and outcasts united by Weaver. In at least one instance, they successfully drive off Leviathan without a single casualty to their defending force, even if they inflicted nearly as much damage to the city as Leviathan would have to do it. Contrast to the Protectorate, who looses one in four capes in theirs and still let him smash the target in the process.
- Son Of The Seven Kingdoms: It is mentioned several times that the Legions are superior to the levies raised by the feudal system. As they are professionally trained, they prove themselves capable of taking on greater armies and prevailing.
- Even moreso for the Blades. One Blade can consider a dozen opponents an insult, and in the old days the Blades served as Aegon the Conqueror's personal elite guard after their much smaller force beat back his army and killed one of his dragons.
- Deconstructed in The Elite Squad. BOPE are a Badass Army who can kick the arses of any number of drug dealers, but their low numbers means they're limited to conducting surgical raids and can't hold ground, so any progress is limited. Nascimento's complaint is that the regular police have the numbers to help them hold the favelas, but they're almost all Dirty to a man.
- The Black Forces of Hungary in Count and Countess.
- Dreamland in Dale Brown books rely on extremely high tech equipment to make up for their few numbers.
- In the later books of the Ender's Shadow series, Bean commands a special unit of 200 Thai soldiers, who execute a number of critical missions, then commands the small army of the newly-created Free People of Earth under the Hegemon.
- The Malazan marines in Malazan Book of the Fallen fit this resoundingly well.
- The Reynard Cycle: Each regiment of the Calvarian army functions this way. A force of about seven thousand of them crush an army over thirty thousand strong in The Baron of Maleperduys.
- By Defender of the Crown, Reynard has whipped his Army of Thieves and Whores into one capable of beating the Calvarians at their own game.
- In 1632, three thousand soldiers of Tilly's mercenary army, armed with seventeenth century weapons, comes up against the four hundred member's of Grantville's "army" (armed with modern weaponry and modern vehicles) like a log hits a rotary saw. The end result is nearly 1,200 mercenary prisoners, nearly 1,800 dead mercenaries, and four hundred victorious Americans.
- The Mobile Infantry of the original Starship Troopers are very elite and use Powered Armor.
- The Unsullied of Astapor, as featured in A Song of Ice and Fire. They are called the finest foot in the world, because they have discipline and intense training. However, they're not all that good at non- or para-military matters.
- The Dresden Files: Wardens of the White Council of Wizards fall under this trope. Their main job is actually hunting down rogue wizards called warlocks, but they also serve as the Council's soldiers during wartime. There are only around 200 of them in all, but this is considered to be roughly equivalent in strength to the armies of the other supernatural nations, some of which number in the thousands.
- However, they do suffer losses. In particular, the Red Court utterly crushed them in one instance, killing 143 Wardens out of 200 in a single battle. It cost them twenty vampires for each dead wizard though. Afterwards, they started drafting anyone who could throw a fireball into their ranks, so they're not quite as elite as they used to be, but they're still pretty badass.
- It takes just a few hundred Space Marines to conquer an entire planet in the Warhammer 40,000 galaxy.
- And amongst Space Marines which follow the Codex Astartes, the First Company (Veterans) and Honor Guard are considered elite compared to them.
- The Grey Knights are considered to be the elite of the space marines, with their previous codex lampshading how hard it is to actually play them without using the allies rule due to being constantly outnumbered.
- The Eldar and Dark Eldar as well. Relatively few models, and not particularly tough either, but highly mobile and generally decent at both shooting and close combat. Eldar troops are very specialised towards fighting certain opponents note while the Dark Eldar eschew what little armour their good cousins take into battle in favour of even more speed and even more firepower.
- The Necrons are similar yet opposite to the Eldar. Expensive troops, but absolutely devastating shooting - they have better weapons than Space Marines and they're much better shots with them - and unlike the flimsy elves, these literal killing machines are as tough as nails with above average Toughness and a decent save, not to mention all of them have a 33% chance to get back up when "killed". Their slow movement, below average Initiative and limited number of Attacks make most of them poorly suited to close combat, however. To further compound their eliteness, they had a special rule in older editions that meant the Necron player was defeated if his army was reduced to 25% of it's original points value - Necrons are deadly, but you need to keep them alive.
- While TheTau don't have the numbers of the Orks or Humanity, they do have a metric fuckton of firepower, small amounts of infantry with good gear and battlesuits jumping around making the enemy's life miserable. To the Tau, mobility is key.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, the Devils are this to the Demons. They field much smaller number in the Blood War, but the soldiers are well-regimented and trained, and able to fight the practically infinite number of Demons to a stalemate.
- The Clans from BattleTech number less than the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere, but thanks to having a culture completely devoted to military prowess, they nearly ended up conquering the entire Inner Sphere.
- Mutant Chronicles is generally a subversion, with armies made up of cannon fodder with a sprinkling of elite units. However, some mention must be made of the Cartel Doomtroopers. Out of a population of 15,5 billion, there are never more than 200 active Doomtroopers. A fully trained and equipped Doomtrooper is expected to be a match for a thousand Dark Legionnaires, and they deliver.
- The Protoss units in StarCraft are expensive, but powerful.
- Part of Starcraft's legacy is that most military strategy games have the three races: A race that uses the Zerg Rush (which StarCraft also named), a race that's the Jack of All Stats, and a race that uses this trope.
- The US Army in Command & Conquer: Generals leans this way, with powerful and versatile units that cost quite a lot. Their basic transport, the Humvee, is the second slowest of its kind and costs about 30% more than the flexible Technical of the GLA, but its passengers can shoot out of it and it can receive an upgrade to take on even light tanks by itself, and that's not to mention the drones it can build (much like all other US ground vehicles). Even the basic infantryman costs 150% of the opponents's, but on the other hand, those don't get crowd-control attacks (Flashbangs) and can't be dropped off into buildings, occupied (which clears out the enemy from it) or otherwise, by choppers.
- The Spartans of Halo. Subverted in that they're part of a larger force.
- Fire Emblem uses this trope in conjunction with the Arbitrary Headcount Limit, giving you ten to fifteen units to take down the enemy army. One of the most notable examples is in Blazing Sword, where you must defeat an enemy army of roughly sixty troops (with reinforcements spawning in every few turns) with about fifteen units.
- The Allied Peacekeeper Division in Red Alert 3: Paradox is an international Elite Army, supplemented by the more conventional army in the Allied Reservists.
- It's possible to build one (or 10, if you have the economy to support them) yourself in Total War: Rome II. Recruit some cohorts of praetorian guards, give them the best equipment, a high ranking general, some other upgrades and train them to veterancy and... Voila! You've got yourself an elite legion capable of achieving kill-ratio's of 500:1.
- Kanbei's Yellow Comet, in Advance Wars. His troops are more expensive and more powerful, which means that even though you'll see less of them during a battle, you may have more trouble getting rid of them than with other, more numerous, troops.
- The AGI Task Force ("ATF") in the X-Universe is a small, but very independent arm of the Terran military, which specializes in hunting down artificial general intelligence and the people who create them. ATF ships are incredibly powerful, as they are fast, well shielded, and very potent, with their only downside being smaller cargo bays, inability to use non-Terran weapons, and the only way to acquire their ships is to make an enemy out of the entire Terran military by boarding ATF ships.
- Crysis 3 reveals that the reason for the change in the Ceph between 1 and 2 is the shift from Stage One, which uses a small number of high-resource individually superior combatants you need anti-tank weapons to even scratch, to the small arms vulnerable but more economical and numerous Stage Two.
- Mass Effect: The asari military tends to be treated like this: small, but extremely effective. Asari commandos, their top agents, are considered some of the deadliest warriors in the galaxy, and going up against them without a massive numerical advantage is considered suicide (Shepard is just that much of a Bad Ass that they survive one-on-one fights with commandos). Their navy is also small in terms of numbers, but their dreadnoughts dwarf everyone else's and outclass most other ships in firepower, with the flagship, Destiny Ascension, being the most powerful single ship in the galaxy, worth as much as entire fleets when it comes to combat effectiveness. Unfortunately, having such a (comparatively) small military means they don't have much in the way of anti-armor weaponry, ground assault vehicles, or logistical support. When the Reaper Invasion hits, everyone else was too busy fending off the Reapers from their own homeworlds, leaving the asari to fend for themselves on Thessia. They get crushed. Badly.
- Dragon Age: "Orlesian Chevaliers" - Orlesian knights known as the best warriors in Therdas.
- Vector Thrust: boasts the Legion, an internationally-funded force of 200 pilots and associated political and military support that steps in to stabilise nuclear conflicts that go too far. They are widely regarded as the best aerial fighting force in the world.
- The Battle of Thermopylae, although the graphic novel and film exaggerates this.
- During the Battle of Mogadishu, later depicted in the novel and film Black Hawk Down, a small group of 160 US Rangers and Delta Force operators supported by some Malaysian and Pakistani armored vehicles fended off somewhere from two to four thousand Somali militiamen.
- Somewhat downplayed in practice, as is often the case in peacekeeping missions in that part of the world. When your opposition knows about as much about basic infantry tactics as you can pick up from playing Call of Duty, any reasonably well-trained and professional unit of regular infantry (let alone Rangers and Delta) is going to look like this trope by comparison.
- In the first decades of the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors had overwhelming military advantages over the native American peoples. The Europeans belonged to a more militarily advanced civilization with better techniques, tools, firearms, artillery, steel, and domesticated animals. Horses and mules carried them, pigs fed them, and dogs fought for them. The indigenous peoples had the advantage of established settlements, determination to remain independent, and large numerical superiority. European diseases and divide and conquer tactics contributed to the defeat of the native populations.
- In an insect world example, compare the number of Japanese hornets to European honeybees and who wins.
- The Hornets, although Japanese bees use Zerg Rush tactics to make bee balls and cook the heat sensitive hornets alive.
- Being able to win through against larger numbers of enemy fighters is half the point of special forces. The other is specialising in operations too difficult for normal troops to handle.
- The United States Marine Corps often looked like this in comparison to their Latin American opponents during the Banana Wars. Kind of inevitable when the Marines were highly trained and armed with (at the time) modern weapons, and supported by ships and air power, whereas rebel forces in places like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua used knives, spears, thirty year old firearms, and occasionally rocks. The more well equipped faired a little bit better. A little.
- They will tell you that they are this trope at all times. There's a reason why their recruiting slogan is "The few, the proud, the Marines:" there are fewer of them than any of the other services in the Department of Defense, they are Marines, and they are known to be very proud of it.
- Charles XI of Sweden realized that he had neither the economy nor the manpower to support a large army to defend the empire his father, aunt, and great-uncle had built. Instead he established Indelningsverket, where every province had to raise a regiment. Ten farmsteads were expected to find one soldier, arm and equip him and give him a small farm that could support him and his family. As a result, the soldiers were integrated into the local community and a great sense of comradeship grew between both the soldiers and their officers (who lived on bigger farms and in mansions in the same villages as their soldiers). The resulting boost to morale managed to make up for small numbers and the Swedish Army dominated the European battlefields from 1680 to 1709.
- Prussia became known for this for a long time during its existence. One of its descriptions was the rather apt "Whereas most states possess an army, Prussia is an army that possesses a state." Led by brilliant military leaders and filled with experienced soldiers, what Prussia lost in its relative lack of a navy it regained with the sheer badassery of its army. Prussia itself essentially created Germany as a nation after breaking away from Austria and launching into a rivalry with it.