"If you keep disposing of your men, Sir, you won't have any left."Sometimes, a villain's biggest problem is that his forces are diminished to the point where they can't stand up to the hero. Sometimes this is simply because the hero is such a badass that their tactics and training don't help the mooks one iota. Other times, the minions are idiots who can't hit the broad side of a barn but end up being good targets themselves. Most often, however, it's a side effect of the villain's own mishandling of their subordinates, such as Shoot the Messenger, You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, Zerg Rush, Forgot to Feed the Monster, Fed to the Beast, You Have Failed Me, We Have Reserves, or just plain It Amused Me and For the Evulz. The villain may think We Have Reserves each time he kills someone, only to find out in the end he used his reserves up. Usually the villain has a terrible case of Genre Blindness to allow this to happen. Extremely idiotic villains may even do this to their Elite Mooks or maybe even their generals, thus diminishing their best forces against the heroes. In some cases, the villain takes it Up to Eleven and invokes All of Them, doing this to his entire army in one shot. It can also result from a case of Screw This, I'm Out of Here! which stems from the Mooks having enough of the Bad Boss routine or because they're not getting enough pay, if they're getting any at all. Alternatively, the Big Bad may simply be cut off from reinforcements and lack the means to get them to help. This trope also applies when a villain is too stupid to leave behind a platoon of guards when he sends his men into battle, thus leaving his base vulnerable to direct attacks. Usually, if it comes to this, the villain will decide to take a Last Villain Stand and face the heroes himself. Of course, in the event the villain is a One-Man Army, losing all his minions won't really be a problem for him. Pretty much Laser-Guided Karma for Bad Bosses. Villains who are pragmatic tend to avoid this. Can be prevented if the villain has a Mook Maker, unless it is destroyed by the heroes, or Night of the Living Mooks if the villain's minions are undead. See also Critical Staffing Shortage for organizations that were originally bigger. Shoot the Builder can be a similar situation wherein the villain kills the henchman in charge of building his superweapon after the device is complete, only to find out that they should've kept their services after the weapon is destroyed. Contrast Can't Kill You, Still Need You.
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Anime And Manga
- Dragon Ball:
- In Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’, after being revived, Frieza leads his forces to earth to get revenge on Goku, only for the Z Fighters to trounce his army, resulting in Frieza killing them all in disgust. Because of this, following Frieza being sent back to Hell, his family's empire completely collapses.
- Frieza's original story arc in Dragon Ball Z had an element of this as well. The main reason Zarbon was given one last chance before the "You Have Failed Me" treatment would've been given to him is that Frieza was running extremely short of minions on Namek (partly from Vegeta killing them, but mostly from his own execution of failures), and it would be some time before replacements could arrive.
- In Lord Marksman and Vanadis, Duke Ganelon has Roland framed for treason and executed after the latter loses the war against the Silver Meteor Army, much to Duke Thenardier's fury as he was one of Brune's strongest generals. Ganelon replies that he didn't give a damn.
- Parodied in Les Innommables: Colonel Lychee, the dog-man and a random sailor go ashore to bury some valuable bones. The Colonel shoots the sailor, and tells the angry-looking dog-man that this way they won't have to worry about the sailor blabbing. The dog-man then tells him that they could just as easily have killed him onboard their ship, now they'll have to row themselves back.
- In the last arc of Preacher, Herr Starr won't stop at anything to kill Jesse Custer once and for all. He decided to call the remaining forces of The Grail to aid him. This consisted of two dozen or so of men. The rest were either dead or simply didn't answer the call.
Films — Animated
- In Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, Doof-2 sent his army of Mecha-Mooks into Dimension-1 to conquer its tri-state area. Unfortunately, instead of making more, he sent the ones that were enforcing his own tri-state area, enabling the resistance to make their move.
Films — Live-Action
- In The Ten Commandments, Pharaoh Ramses sends his entire army after Moses and the departing Israelites only to be told that they were all killed when the Red Sea parted, and then un-parted. The final shot of the Pharaoh is on his throne, silently contemplating how he can rule his country with no army to back him up. In this case it happens because the opponent's might (God's) is such that it wipes out the Pharaoh's entire army in one swift strike.
- Seven Samurai is this trope for the entirety of Acts III-V. The eponymous samurai learn approximately 40 bandits will attack the town they are defending come harvest time. They spend time Training the Peaceful Villagers, staging raids on sleeping bandits, creating fortifications and traps, picking off the problematic bandits with muskets (the bandits have muskets, making them very dangerous to the samurai), and so on in order to deplete the bandits. Kambei, the oldest and wisest of the samurai, even says "We must reduce them," in the English subtitles.
- Star Wars Legends:
- The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels states that there was a point during Grand Admiral Thrawn's tenure as Imperial high commander where he realized the Empire's TIE Interceptor losses had gotten to the point where they couldn't be considered expendable anymore, and he began having them equipped with Deflector Shields.
- The Hand of Thrawn duology starts with Supreme Commander Gilad Pellaeon (Thrawn's former flag captain and second-in-command) deciding to sue for peace with the New Republic after a test of a new weapon system for fighting while cloaked fails miserably. He comments that at this point, the Empire is down to one shipyard that can't even keep up with the demand for fighters, never mind capital ships, and they're having to buy the former from outside contractors.
- About two-thirds of the way through the New Jedi Order series, there's a high-level strategy meeting for the Yuuzhan Vong high command. Supreme Overlord Shimmra chews out his warmasters for their prior We Have Reserves attitude: with the Galactic Alliance just having destroyed a major Yuuzhan Vong fleet to kill a mid-level general, they now have no strategic reserve left, meaning not only can they no longer advance, they don't have enough troops left to hold their conquests. This is ultimately one of the factors that costs them the war.
- In the Revenge of the Sith novelization, General Grievous invokes You Have Failed Me every time one of his bridge officers slips up. Towards the end of the space battle, he kills one more, then realizes he's just finished off the last of his bridge crew.
- In The Elusive Bride by Stephanie Laurens, Major Gareth Hamilton is pursued across the Middle East and Mediterranean by the fanatical "Uncle", a commander of the Black Cobra cult, who has hundreds if not thousands of mooks at his disposal. But due to Hamilton's skill at enlisting allies, by the time the chase reaches the Channel coast of France, Uncle has suffered the loss of his entire army; his sole surviving lieutenant assassinates him for incompetence.
- In Gianni Rodari's The Adventures of Cipollino the Lemon Prince uses his Lemon Soldiers as fireworks (firing them from a cannon, two at a time) out of boredom during a siege. When he's finally advised to stop, he's down to seventeen soldiers and forty generals.
- In the Discworld books, the reason Lancre Castle suffers from a Critical Staffing Shortage is that during the tenure of the Felmets in Wyrd Sisters, nearly all the staff either resigned in disgust or got fired. Lady Felmet would have executed some to Make an Example of Them but the Duke advised her against it, saying that going down that road would lead to the last member of the staff being ordered to cut his own throat as an example to himself.
- A Horrible Histories song about Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard, suggested that he liked to do this so he wouldn't have to share his treasure with so many people, and that it led to his downfall when he was boarded and didn't have anyone left to help defend his ship.
- This is a mainstay of Power Rangers and Super Sentai. After going through who knows how many Monsters Of The Week, the Big Bad will eventually learn that all his monsters are gone, though strangely, he'll still have plenty of footsoldiers. At this point, either the Big Bad will finally be ready to enact his master plan or decide to finally subvert Orcus on His Throne and the Final Battle begins. Usually the Big Bad is a One-Man Army, so it won't really matter if he has no more forces...at first. Such examples include:
- The three part Season Finale of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, where Trakeena equips her Stingwingers with bombs as part of her final attack on Terra Venture. The kamikaze tactics succeed in destroying two of the Rangers' Megazords, but as a result, Trakeena loses her entire army, leaving her vulnerable to the Rangers' counterattack.
- In Power Rangers Light Speed Rescue, following the destruction of Diabolico and Olympus, Queen Bansheera demands that Jinxer produces a monster for her, but he informs her that all the monster cards have been used up, but he managed to slip a Batling card on the Rangers' megazord.
- At the beginning of the endgame of Power Rangers Time Force, Ransik learns that all of the mutants onboard the Cryo-Prison have been captured by the Rangers, leaving him at a loss as how to defeat them. However, he soon finds the traitorous Frax, along with his greatest creation, the Doomtron.
- Inverted in Power Rangers Ninja Storm, where Lothor's master plan actually required the Rangers to destroy his monsters, in order to fill up the Abyss of Evil completely so that he could open it and revive all of his monsters and then some.
- Also lampshaded by Lothor near the end of the show. "I'm beginning to have too many Generals and too few soldiers!"
- Timeless: In the first season finale, Flynn discovers that except for his right hand woman, all his Mooks are either dead or have abandoned him.
- Done in many, many an RPG where the players are assaulting a fixed defensive position which won't be reinforced, whether it's an orc camp with a set number of guards or a building owned by a shadowy Mega Corp. staffed by their Cyber Punk mercenary guards. Generally speaking, the players should have some kind of plan for refitting themselves and rearming before making their next push, while the GM should have worked out how the bad guys can do the same - or if they even can.
- Averted in the tabletop version of The Temple of Elemental Evil which contained rules for reinforcements arriving if the players took too long to clear the Temple out.
- Warhammer 40,000
- By "tabling" an opponent, that is if a player manages to wipe the enemy army from the table before the end of the game, the game immediately ends in an automatic victory for the surviving army regardless of the score. It's often advisable not to put units in ongoing reserve if your force is starting to dwindle.
- In verse, this is rarely a problem outside of wars of extermination, as forces tend to come in huge numbers and a war tends to be either won or lost before one side can be totally wiped out, and when possible, the victors will work to exploit what's left over. Defeat an Ork WAAAGH! or a Tyranid Hive Fleet, and mopping up the survivors can take years. A Chaos invasion will work to convert or enslave Imperial citizens, Necrons will experiment on anything else, and so on.
- This happens in Dead Space 3. By the third act Isaac has killed so many Unitologist cultists (with lots of deliciously ironic help from series staple baddies the Necromorphs) that when cult leader Jacob Danik wants to throw more of them at Isaac to slow his pursuit, he's audibly desperate after being informed that he's almost run out. There's enough of them left to cause Isaac and Carver trouble in the following DLC (and judging by the number of severed limbs found, that must have been several dozen at least).
- In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the Space Pirate Commander battles you with a horde of Pirate Commandos. It is possible to kill all the Commandos until it's only him left, but doing so takes a while and is pretty tough, especially since he's the second to last non-Final Boss in the game.
- Examples for Borderlands 2:
- Towards the end of the main quest, the game forces you to fend off waves and waves of Hyperion loaders while Claptrap tries to open a gate (key word being tries). Eventually, the AI guarding the gate is forced to announce that its reinforcements have been depleted, at which point Claptrap finally opens the door. Played With in that more Hyperion loaders show up as you, Brick and Mordecai get closer to the Vault; so in this case mooks were available but Hyperion deemed further defense of the gate to be a waste of resources.
- From the Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt DLC, Professor Nakayama grows increasingly more panicked as the Vault Hunters get closer to his ship and he realises that he's been Bullying a Dragon this whole time. He subsequently throws as many of the tribesmen in your direction in the desperate hope that it will work. When his final secret weapon is destroyed, he realises that he's entirely alone and has nothing left to defend himself with. When forced to fight you, he's ready to do it, but loses his balance, falls down a ramp and dies before you have the chance to fight him.
- At the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition, the title organization has worn out the ranks of the Elder One's followers so thin that he has no choice but to attend the Final Battle with just himself and his dragon.
- In Legacy Of The Void, the Big Bad Amon has brainwashed humans with Zerg-Protoss hybrids, a substantial number of Zerg, the Brainwashed and Crazy Protoss, a fanatical sect of the Protoss, and void-energy clones of regular units]] at his command. Over the course of the campaign, you kill all the humans, decimate the Zerg, ally with the The Starscream of the fanatics, and close the portals that allow the void-energy clones. In the final mission, all that's left are the remaining hybrids and Zerg and the brainwashed Protoss. The Zerg and Hybrids are slaughtered and the Protoss are freed, so in the Epilogue the clones are all he has left.
- In World of Warcraft the Alterac Valley battleground, infamous for lasting hours or even days, was revamped to include this. Each faction starts with a limited number of "reinforcements", i.e. respawns, which are slowly replenished if they control either of the mines. However a sizable number of reinforcements is lost when one of four towers or their field commander dies. The "turtle" strategy relies on creating an imbalance in reinforcements so that the enemy loses when they run out first.
- Persona 5: The fifth boss, Kunikazu Okumura/Mammon, believes in having his minions do all the work for him. He spends his entire battle sitting on his throne while sending waves of disposable mooks at your party, never attacking you himself, secure in the belief that he has an infinite number of underlings to spare. Reality slaps him in the face when you defeat his King Mook; he tries to summon more, only for none to show up. It's unclear whether he ran out of minions, or if the surviving ones are refusing to help him. Either way, you defeat him rather quickly after that.
- Lampshaded and subverted in Kid Icarus: Uprising. One of the missions has Pit going to fight Pandora and destroying the Mirror of Truth, which has the power to create a copy of whatever stands in front of it and Medusa has been using to replenish the troops that have been killed. He succeeds (albeit not before he gets his own dark doppelganger created), but the next chapter has both him and Palutena noting that Medusa's army seemingly hasn't decreased in number at all and is still growing despite casualties. Indeed, even after Medusa herself dies and the real Big Bad Hades shows up, the Underworld army doesn't seem at all weakened even after repeated battles with Pit Viridi's Forces of Nature, the Aurum invasion or the 3-year-long Great Offscreen War between themselves, the Forces of Nature, or Palutena's Army under the thrall of the Chaos Kin. Eventually Chapter 22 reveals why: Hades has been creating the soldiers of his army using the souls of the humans killed in all the fighting throughout the game, having orchestrated all the conflict specifically for this purpose. Notably, even the morally-grey characters of the game consider this Hades' Moral Event Horizon.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, one arc has him facing off against a man who keeps sending bad-guy Ninja after him, and killing any who screw up. When the Doctor comes knocking at his door, he finds out he killed all of his Mooks, leaving him defenseless.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Noted but averted with Xykon, the Big Bad Lich, who should encounter this trope, since he constantly uses his goblin minions as cannon fodder (in one case, sending tons of them to die in order to form a ramp) or killing them for his own amusement. However, "luckily", Xykon and his goblin second-in-command, Redcloak, can raise the dead as zombies.
- Played straight in the prequel book Start of Darkness, wherein Xykon explicitly press-gangs Redcloak's brother because he exhausted his minions fighting off adventurers before.
- Averted in the "War of Azure City" arc, where Redcloak was originally fine with sending hobgoblins to their death, thinking them less than normal goblins, until one of them saves his life at the cost of their own, causing him to come to his senses that all goblin races are the same.
- In 8-Bit Theater Kary killed all of her minions, basically because she got bored, and the last one of them (apparently her accountant) explained how she had no minions left...before she kills him and decides to fight the "Light Warriors" herself.
- In Super Stupor, a villainess demands to know why her base hasn't been set up yet, only for the henchman to tell her that she killed all the others.
- Invoked in one episode of Aladdin where after Abis Mal told his men who failed him they would be executed, Haroud warned that he wouldn't have any men left if he kept that up.
- One episode of Sheep in the Big City had a Running Gag where General Specific kept dropping his men through Trap Doors. Eventually, when he and Private Public were chasing the titular character in a helicopter, they lost control of it because the General had dropped the pilot through the trapdoor.
- In the third movie, "Bender's Game", despite one of her sons wanting to leave behind a contingent, Momon insisted on all her forces being sent into battle, which left her lair defenseless for Fry to invade. It also didn't help that all her minions ended up getting killed. True, she won in the end, but the trope was still in affect.
- Zapp Brannigan was already known for throwing away the lives of his men (having them fly into an enemy ship's cannon to clog it and sending them to their deaths to overload a killing machine), but "Into The Wild Green Yonder" takes it Up to Eleven when his ship is cut in half while flying through a giant golf course windmill because he refused to pick up speed, resulting in the death of all of his men. He looked at the bright side that they wouldn't have to mourn each other.
- In one Rocky and Bullwinkle "Fractured Fairy Tales" segment featuring King Midas, the king called for his board of directors to help him become popular with his subjects, and executing those who failed him. At the end of the cartoon, he has no directors left.
- Transformers. This trope is probably the reason Megatron puts up with Starscream.
- In Transformers Prime, Megatron's usual attitude is We Have Reserves with most of his Decepticon soldiers, and occasionally even his lieutenants. True to this trope, he even ends up killing plenty of them himself in mad attempts to finish off the Autobots, though for most of the series he seems to have more than enough to replace them. He is forced to rethink this attitude after a mutated C.Y.L.A.S. inadvertently starts a small-scale zombie infection, which kills off nearly half of their troops and subsequently forces Soundwave to banish the Insecticons after they are brainwashed by Airachnid, depriving them of their Elite Mooks. When the Autobots finally make it to the Nemesis in the penultimate episode, Megatron concedes that they probably don't have enough troops to win.
- Lampshaded in the Five-Episode Pilot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) by Krang to Shredder when the Turtles incapacitate Bebop and Rocksteady, his strongest henchmen, as a reason to install the molecular amplification chip into his body.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) sees the Foot Clan's rank and file troops start out dangerous and competent but gradually decrease in threat level...because of this trope. Turns out soldiers with years of training and experience don't grow on trees and all of Shredder's best men are either arrested, quit after being beaten up by mutant turtles one too many times, or are too badly injured to fight anymore. As a result, all he had left to send at the Turtles were anyone the Foot Clan could find and recruit. This also Justifies his switching over to Mecha-Mooks, as after reverse engineering some Kraang tech, they're much easier to replace than humans that take years to properly train.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, as part of her Villainous Breakdown, Azula becomes increasingly paranoid and starts exiling her minions, including her Dai Li agents. While this doesn't affect the Final Battle, it does cause her to lose loyalty which helped when Zuko took the throne at the end of the series.