Idun: Wh- what is this?
That, Festum, is pain!
Do you want to know the name of the tactic I showed you? It's the War of Attrition
! The tactic of enduring pain!
A subtrope of Combat Pragmatist
Sometimes, the one who wins a battle is simply the last man standing.
This trope is different from a Pyrrhic Victory
. The gambit revolves around ensuring that stamina/endurance—either over an extremely long period of time or after great expenditure of energy—is the deciding factor in the battle.
This trope takes several different forms:
- The target is in the midst of a harmful state, inhospitable climate or exhaustive activity. Thus, all the plotter need do is wait for them to run out of gas, collapse, or die altogether. It's possible to speed this up through poison, arbitrary attacks, or sending disposable fodder and mutual enemies to help them burn out quicker. The plotter can bring this about deliberately with an Exploited Immunity.
- Dragging the fight out long enough that the target gets desperate and reveals their ace in the hole, so that the plotter can deal with it on his own terms.
- Rather than waiting for the opponent to grow weaker, the plotter has an Instant-Win Condition which will take time (such as waiting for the Big Damn Heroes to show up or for the Kill Sat to go online). However, they can't put up anything more than a superficial fight until it happens. Thus, they rely moreso on their own endurance or defense to prevent, avoid or withstand as much damage as possible before their victory is assured).
Some of these can overlap. For example, it's possible to poison an enemy, forcing them to overclock their Healing Factor
, and then have a win condition at the ready just in case
. Characters that do this are likely to be Crazy-Prepared
None of these tactics are seen as the most heroic way to fight, as it's considered more virtuous to fight like a gentleman
and pit raw talent, skill, and power against an enemy than use cunning to avoid it
. Thus you'll see this most often used by Villains
or Anti Heroes
. This trope is all about making sure that fight is never
fair. A Victory By Endurance always
ends with a curb-stomping
Often seen in a Mook Horror Show
situation. Expect a Stone Wall
type character to use this tactic. When you're playing a video game and you're required to do this, it's Hold the Line
Compare and contrast My Defense Need Not Protect Me Forever
, Super-Persistent Predator
, Death of a Thousand Cuts
, Gradual Grinder
, or Hit-and-Run Tactics
See: The Problem with Fighting Death
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Anime and Manga
- Nnoitra uses this against Ichigo. After Ichigo defeats Grimmjow and apparently rescued Orihime, Nnoitra announces his presence by one-shotting the exhausted Grimmjow before thrashing the equally exhausted Ichigo. He viewed Grimmjow, Ichigo and Orihime as equally fair game, but waited for them to be exhausted and have dropped their guard before taking them on.
- Yhwach tricked Yamamoto into taking on a Yhwach double. After Yamamoto wore himself down killing the double, Yhwach stepped in and killed him.
- The FemRitters deliberately waited until Kenpachi had exhausted and injured himself from defeating Gremmy Thoumeaux before attacking him, commenting that this was the smart thing to do. As a result, they beat him up so badly he can't move.
- The Prince of Tennis bout between Karou vs Ryoma. Karou's tennis style is to force his opponent to run from one side of the court to the other, making them too tired to return his volleys. Ryoma turns this around on him by forcing him to keep his knees bent during the whole game, using up twice as much endurance, instead.
- The eponymous character uses this tactic sometimes, given that he has more physical and chakra endurance than almost anyone. However, this trope is often subverted for Naruto, as he often needs that extreme stamina just to keep up with the numerous challenges presented to him.
- A particularly notable example is when Naruto defeats Pain. Ironically, said opponent was using the same tactic at the same time because both of them are members of the Uzumaki bloodline, and thus have insane amounts of chakra reserves. Naruto was not only able to avoid becoming exhausted (thanks to replenishment through outside sources) but also able to force Pain to let his guard down when he finally did exhaust Naruto's last trump card, thus leading straight to his defeat.
- However, Naruto usually expends that extra energy to do more rather than win his own fight. For example, in the Fourth Shinobi War Arc, Naruto's new Super Mode is quite powerful and can be used for extended periods of time. Instead of conserving his energy for his upcoming fight, he creates a dozen clones to personally turn the tide at every front of the war. This has notable consequences later, but his decision definitely did have its merits.
- Another example occurs during the Ten-Tails revival arc, where Naruto and Kurama, the Nine-Tails share chakra with everyone, giving every ally insane amounts of power while still having more than enough for their own use.
- Yami Bakura from Yu-Gi-Oh! easily defeated Pegasus by attacking him after he just faced Yugi.
Yami Bakura: Really, Pegasus, is that all you can muster? Ah, you've been fatigued by your duel with Yugi. Your mind is weary while mine is fresh!
- In Fairy Tail, this is how Elfman defeats Bacchus in the Grand Magic Games. Bacchus' magic martial arts make him too fast for Elfman to dodge, so he simply transforms into a Lizardman with spiky scales. The entire match consists of Bacchus landing countless powerful blows on Elfman, seriously damaging his own hands in the process. In the end, Bacchus falls down exhausted, conceding defeat.
- Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie: After all the brooding and dramatic build up, Guile finally gets his shot at revenge against Bison, near the end of the film. Except Bison makes him look like a complete joke, by teleporting around him faster than Guile could keep up with, essentially letting Guile wear himself out trying to hit him. Even his Sonic Boom fails to connect. Bison one shots him immediately afterwards and decides he isn't worth further attention.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Sanosuke notes this trope in his first fight with Kenshin, stating that it's not the better swordsman who wins, but the one left standing(which Kenshin throws back in his face). This tactic is also used by during the fight with Shishio, which ends with Shishio combusting.
- In Gundam Build Fighters, the Renato Brothers' BuCUE Tank defeats the Star Build Gundam in the Preliminary Race by draining the suit of its Plavsky Particle reserves before taking up a new, faster form and speeding ahead to victory.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Androids 17 and 18 have an inexhaustible energy source, so unless you're already strong enough to break them, you'll just exhaust yourself pounding away at them until they can win.
- This was how Bane defeated Batman in the Knightfall story arc: waiting until Batman had a normally inconvenient bout of the flu, Bane unleashed a mob of super-criminals from Arkham Asylum and waited for Batman to tire himself out trying to put them all back behind bars in the space of a few days with no sleep. Having already deduced Batman's Secret Identity, Bane shows up at Wayne Manor after Bruce Wayne has practically collapsed in exhaustion and then breaks his spine.
- This is how Norman Osborn kills Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man. After battling several other threats alongside The Ultimates (including taking a bullet for Captain America), Peter tries to hobble home and receive medical attention. But when he gets there, his loved ones are being harassed by the Green Goblin and several others from Spider-man's Rogues Gallery. Peter (and his family/allies) fight back valiantly, but Peter eventually succumbs to his injuries.
- An annual issue of The Punisher MAX had a story in which a mook barely escapes from Frank, and his mental condition gradually worsens as he seeks help everywhere. Frank barely appears at all except at the end, allowing the mook to tire himself out all by himself.
- In Superman: Ending Battle, Manchester Black sends waves and waves of villains after the hero. After they are defeated, Bizarro, Mongul, Master Jailer, and Silver Banshee try to finish Superman off now that he's exhausted. In the ensuing fight, Superman also uses this against Mongul, dodging and blocking his attacks and refueling on sunlight until Mongul gets tired.
- In Rocky III this is how Rocky beats Clubber Lang in the climactic rematch, inviting Clubber to take his best shot at him over and over again until he's worn himself out and Rocky can wipe him out.
- In a sense, this is pretty much how Rocky always fights- he just will not go down and almost always outlasts his opponent.
- Ivan Vanko/Whiplash in Iron Man 2 uses this strategy against Tony and Rhodes. By the time he engages the two in battle, they've already burned a lot of energy and ammunition on the army of drones Vanko sent against them. Furthermore, Tony has used up his One-Hit Kill ace-in-the-hole. Vanko still loses, however, because of a Forbidden Chekhov's Gun.
- Jason Voorhees, believe it or not, uses this in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, where Jason faces against a teen boxer in Good Old Fisticuffs. Jason never even throws a punch and soaks up punishment upon punishment until the boxer gets tired. Then Jason decapitates him with one punch.
- Of course, Jason could have done this at the very start of the fight too. But where's the fun in that? It's much more nightmarish for the opponent to watch his best hits result in a No Sell, a barrage of blows result only in a Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh..., let Invulnerable Knuckles be averted as the fighter reduces his own fingers to bloody stumps trying to find a face behind the hockey mask...
- Played for Laughs in Monty Python's Life of Brian; a skirmisher-type gladiator matched against a Mighty Glacier in heavy armour takes one look at him, drops his weapons and runs away. His opponent chases him for several circuits of the arena, and then drops dead of a Hollywood Heart Attack.
- In Real Steel, Charlie details how he, back when humans did the actual boxing, fought an opponent he wasn't expected to be able to contend with to a near-victory simply because his opponent couldn't knock him down. Atom's near-victory happens in much the same way, since he's built to take hits and the other robot doesn't have enough juice to last five rounds.
- Valentinian in the Belisarius Series, but defied in the most spectacular example:
For hours, Valentinian had avoided matching strength with Sanga. He had countered the king's astonishing power with speed, instead. Speed, cunning, and experience. He could have—should have—ended the battle so. Circling the Rajput, probing, slashing, bleeding him further, staying away from that incredible strength, until his opponent was so weak that the quick death thrust could be driven home. Killing a king, like a wolf brings down a crippled bull. Like a weasel kills.
- Used several times in the Earths Children series. In one instance a group of hunters tire out a woolly rhinosaurus by each one jumping into its field of vision, making it chase them, and then another person jumps in, etc. At the end the rhino is practically dead from exhaustion, and they finish it off with spears.
- Bronn does this against Ser Vardis in A Song of Ice and Fire (and in Game of Thrones) during Tyrion's Trial by Combat: Bronn wears only light armour and no shield, and uses Hit-and-Run Tactics to let the fully mailed and shielded Vardis tire himself out under the weight of his equipment before closing in and killing him. The witnesses angrily call Bronn a dishonorable coward for not taking his opponent head-on, but Bronn dismissively says that he cares about victory, not honor.
- The Gentleman Bastard. Used twice in The Lies of Locke Lamora where Locke, our protagonist and noted Combat Pragmatist, has to buy time for Jean to help him out. As a youth, he bear hugs the leader of a rival gang until Jean arrives, then as an adult he does the same to take down The Grey King, although this time it's not enough as Jean doesn't show up until Locke has won the fight using another method.
- In Theodor Fontane's novel Der Stechlin, which is set in the 1890s, old Dubslav says this regarding his old regiment and the Wars of Liberation of 1813 and 1814 in chapter four:
Our Nikolaus Cuirassiers, God keep them as they are! I would say in that regiment the old Holy Alliance lives on, the brotherhood in arms of the year 1813, and that year 1813, which we endured together with the Russians, always side by side, in the bivouacs, in fortune and misfortune, that was our greatest time. Greater than the one that is great now. A great time always is only when things almost fail, when you have to fear at any moment: "Now it is all over." That's where it shows. Courage is good, but endurance is better. Endurance is the crucial thing. Nothing in the belly, nothing on the body, terrible cold, rain and snow, so you lie in the wet puddle and at most you have a schnapps (a brandy, ha!, you barely got at the time) and so through the night, there you could learn to recognize Jesus Christ.
- The Hunger Games is this combined with Deadly Game. There are references to two Games where the Victor was the last survivor: Annie won because she was the only one that knew how to swin when the Arena was flooded, and an unknown one where most players died of hypothermia because it was too cold and there were few trees around.
- Stargate Atlantis: The Wraith defeated the Ancients by utilizing this method of warfare.
- To elaborate, the Wraith began the war due to their having a hatred for what the Ancients did to their ancestors (and a few of those who still lived to that day). The Ancients wielded technology that all but made them invincible, winning them every battle and leaving the Wraith at a severe disadvantage. Then the Ancients started to get cocky and overconfident, sending their ships deeper and deeper into Wraith territory. Eventually, the Wraith captured three Aurora-class cruisers, each powered by a Zero-Point Module. The Wraith then adapted some of their technology to be able to use the Zero-Point Modules and their numbers and resources exploded, permanently turning the tide of the war in their favor. Even though the Ancients still won every battle, they were unable to replenish their resources and had little choice but to retreat back to Atlantis. They sent a delegation to sue for peace, but that didn't work out too well. In the final years of the war, only Atlantis ad the Lantea system were under Ancient control, being defended from a distance by one Kill Sat after another and at home due to a Nigh Invulnerable shield. Eventually, the Wraith disabled or destroyed the satellites and made their approach, forcing the Ancients to sink their city and leave the Pegasus Galaxy for the Milky Way with their tails in between their legs and leaving the Pegasus Galaxy at the mercy of the Wraith for the next 10,000 years.
- "Rope-a-dope'' is this strategy as applied to the sport of Boxing. The technique was first used and named by boxer Muhammad Ali for his 1974 fight against George Foreman (the "Rumble in the Jungle" match in Kinshasa). He lay against the ring's ropes in a protective stance and let Foreman wear himself out hitting him, with the ropes absorbing most of the impact. Once Foreman grew tired, Ali started counter attacking and beat him. Since then, various fighters have used this technique from time to time, particularly against Hot-Blooded opponents who can't see that it's an act.
- In mixed martial arts endurance is often a deciding factor. Some fighters are so fast and strong that the fight seems like a foregone conclusion after the first thirty seconds. However, if the opponent is able dodge or absorb attacks for a round or so then their muscular opponent will likely be so exhausted that they will leave themselves vulnerable. Still, it is a risky tactic as all fights have time limits and if they go to a decision then the judges (and fans!) are more likely to favor the more aggressive combatant.
- While its place as a "sport" is up for contention despite now being referred to as Sports Entertainment, Professional Wrestling is well known for this sort of victory. Aside from the usual bouts of Determinator and Nigh Invulnerable wrestlers, many matches are based on this concept, like: the "Iron Man" hour-long marathon to see who has the most pinfalls/submissions; "Last Man Standing" matches where you have to keep the opponent down for a 10 count; cage matches where you have to get your opponent so worn down they can't stop you from exiting the cage; and any number of other gimmick matches where the expectation is "beat the guy down so much he can't fight back, and you can put him into/out of the victory condition, or he can't prevent you from doing so." Or, at least, they are HYPED as this, until one or the other figures out an alternate means of grabbing victory.
- As a general example, this is the premise behind a mill deck in collectible card games. Rather than directly defeating the opponent, a mill deck causes the opponent to run out of resources, usually by depleting the opponent's deck, which is an Instant Loss Condition for many card games.
- Shadowrun. The barghest uses its fear-causing howl to drive its prey for long distances until they are exhausted and it can close in for the kill.
- For Ars Magica, the Houses of Hermes supplement introduced a more visceral alternative to the Certámen ritual combat, preferred by the House Flambeau - the Test of Flames, aka Inirelte's Certámen. It conjures up a circle of fire, and the winner is whoever can stay inside longest.
- Warhammer 40,000 has both strategic and gameplay examples:
- The Tau use this during conflicts with much larger and more established galactic powers like the Imperium of Man, as best seen during the Damocles Gulf Crusade and the Taros campaign. The Tau see little point in desperate battles to hold ground, and will fall back from a strong enemy offensive, offering only what resistance is needed to cover their retreat, before regrouping at rally points. As their enemy advances, the Tau use their superior mobility to harry their foe's flanks, compromising their strategy or forcing them to spread themselves thin. Eventually the Tau's opponents end up under-strength and unable to press their numerical advantage.
- On the tabletop, this is how units devoted to Nurgle work. Unlike other Chaos Gods, Nurgle's daemons or mortal champions can't quickly crush their enemies in close combat or blow them apart with magic, but are instead inhumanly tough. So if a unit of Plague Marines can't achieve a decisive victory in the first round of combat, between their Powered Armor, inability to feel pain, and diseased bulk, the enemy is going to struggle to inflict casualties, while the Plague Marines steadily chip away at them. Worse, the blessing of Nurgle means that simply being in close combat with the likes of Plaguebearers is eventually lethal, regardless of whether they land any blows.
- In general, this is the reason behind the strategy known as "Camping" — getting a slight lead, then waiting out the timer. Generally speaking, while a legitimate strategy, it tends to be a Scrappy Mechanic, and games that encourage or reward over-reliance on it instead of offensive play tend to be seen as "less competitive" and die a quiet death... such as the controversy behind Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
- In some Role Playing Games, the player can fight against a particularly tough monster or boss by Mana Drain, leaving it too crippled to fight back.
- Pretty much how Pokémon Battles are played out at least in the game. Generally the player will almost always have a full party of six Pokemon with them out all times. The NPC Trainers that are fought in the game will almost always have less than six Pokemon on them. Most notably are the Gym Leaders whom the player can beat by simply outlasting their team, even if their party is under leveled and or doesn't have any Pokemon with a Elemental Advantage against the Gym Leader. Players will start facing full teams once they get to the endgame sections with the Elite Four in particular.
- This different in the anime where a set of match rules are agreed between trainers seen most often in Gym Battles such as both parties agreeing only to use X number of Pokemon in this match and win either by elimination or best out X battles. This is obviously used prevent on party from winning simply by attrition.
- According to the Codex in Mass Effect, this is humanity's main method of fighting. Humanity attacks the enemy's supplies and resources foremost, leaving their forces to "wither on the vine" until their fleets can curb stomp them.
- In Super Mario RPG, Culex, unlike every other boss in the game, has a finite FP pool for spellcasting. If you can tank his attacks for long enough, he effectively takes himself out of the fight. This does not, however, solve the problem of his four elemental crystals which aid him in battle, and which do have limitless FP.
- All too many strategy games can have a human player sit back and defend themselves while the enemy wastes its resources attacking untill they have nothing left, at which point you can run them over with a relatively small attack.
- In Civilization V, if an AI civ with a high "boldness" rating and far more units than you declares war, and your city is well defended with ranged units, they will dash most of their units against your city, often opening themselves up to counter-attack if you play your own units wisely.
- Advanced V.G. II:
- First seen when Chiho avoids a fight with her cousin, Kyoko, by tricking Tamao into fighting Kyoko for her. As soon as Tamao defeats her, Chiho takes advantage by taking Kyoko out with a shuriken, while she's exhausted.
- Miranda employed a similar tactic, by having the Material Twins attack Yuka and Tamao. Then immediately capitalized on Yuka's weakened state, in order to defeat her.
- Except Yuka was still able to put up enough of a fight to weaken Miranda, which enabled Tamao to return the favor by finish her off.
- In Kingdom Hearts II, Hades sends minion after minion against Hercules, playing on his pride to fight them on his own instead of accepting help. Hercules is left so exhausted that he's almost killed by Auron before Sora, Donald, and Goofy save him.
- In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Organization XIII lures Sora into their realm and Xemnas attacks him. Sora narrowly manages to defeat him, but is so exhausted that he can put up no resistance when Young Xehanort shows up, who even comments that Sora made it too easy.
- When The Order of the Stick went up against an enemy adventuring party, Vaarsuvius overruled Roy's strategy to hold and fight, instead running for as long as possible. The Order's mount was faster, so the enemy's psion had to repeatedly open dimensional gates in an attempt to cut them off, burning through her psionic points. Later when they had a proper battle, V dueled the psion and spammed mid-level spells instead of going for a kill. The increasingly irritated psion pointed out that she could counter any spell V cast, but V informed her that the wizard had twenty-five spells left. The psion promptly teleported away after realizing V could outlast her.
- Hayate adopts this tactic in Dead Fantasy V, by having his ninja assault Tifa after she's been beaten and severely weakened by Hitomi. Hayate doesn't attack until she's on the brink of exhaustion; having expended her remaining energy dispatching all but two of his squad.
- In the chapter Scarab 25.3 of ''Worm, The Chicago Wards pull this off against the supervillains Topsy, Watch, and Mockshow, by cutting off their communications, disabling their transportation, and driving them out into the street in the middle of December. They then wall off all the escape routes, having diverted civilian traffic, and wait until the villains surrender.
- This is how Vegeta killed Shadow the Hedgehog in their Death Battle. Shadow, in his Super Form, was Nigh Invulnerable, but this form has a time limit. Vegeta has repeatedly shown that he can take a severe beating and still continue to fight, so once Shadow dropped back to his normal form, one blast was all it took.
- Homer from The Simpsons has Homer Simpson Syndrome ("ohh, why me!?") where his brain is surrounded by 1/8 inch more cushioning fluid than usual, making him the perfect boxer. He just waits for the other guy to tire himself out punching him, at which point Homer can just push the other guy down - with force insufficient to kill a fly - for a KO. This unfortunately proved insufficient when Homer went up against a Mike Tyson expy...
- In the Looney Tunes short "Gorilla My Dreams", Bugs Bunny is being chased by a gorilla. Just when things seem hopeless for Bugs, he finds that by the time the gorilla has caught him he was too tired to beat him up and falls over exhausted.
- In the The Legend of Korra episode "A Leaf in the Wind", pro-bending team the Fire Ferrets pull this off twice. In the first instance, Mako is the only one left standing, so he just dodges until his opponents get tired, which allows him to take all three out. In the second, Mako and Bolin are pinned while Korra is nearly forced off the edge. Korra has an epiphany about airbending movements, which allows her to dodge perfectly, achieving the same result as Mako.
- Done by Courage the Cowardly Dog, who still kept going despite being bashed, mashed, and ripped to a pulp by a hypercompetent Do-Anything Robot dog to regain Muriel's love, to the point that he only wins by being beaten long enough for the robot to short circuit and explode.
- Blitzwing uses this in the The Transformers episode "Triple Takeover". He stays in a football stadium and lets the Autobots come to him, having to get through a maze guarded by the Constructicons. By the time they reach him, they're injured and exhausted, and he casually tramples them and makes a throne from their bodies.
- An episode of Family Guy shows actress Carol Channing (b. 1921) in a boxing match against Mike Tyson. Despite a flurry of brutal offense from Tyson, Channing keeps getting up as if all that punishment doesn't bother her ("That all you got you son of a bitch? You're going down, young man!"). Eventually, Tyson passes out from exhaustion, thus losing the match.
- At the climax of the Classic Disney Short A Knight for a Day, ersatz knight Cedric manages to beat Sir Cumfrence this way, hiding in his armor until his opponent wears himself out trying to bust it open.
- Celebrity Deathmatch had Rodney Dangerfield win a match against Don Rickles this way: by goading Don to throw out insult after insult at him while Rodney's Self-Deprecation hinted "I could insult myself better than you can insult me!" he got Don to burn out his material too soon. Rodney went, "Okay, Cueball, now it's time to teach YOU some Respect!" and began to lay a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown with each blow spelled out with a letter from the word "Respect." Johnny Gomez commented Rodney used the "rope-a-dope" strategy on Don.
- The "endurance hunt", thought by anthropologists to be the hunting method that put humanity at the top of the food chain. It is a method of hunting by tracking and chasing a single target for as long as it takes for it to get tired. While most animals can easily outpace humanity in short bursts, no other species has our potential for endurance. As long as the human is persistent enough, eventually the animal will be too tired to run or fight and collapse. Then it's pretty much over. However, human endurance hunting is limited to warm or hot climates—humans' relative stamina relies on ability to sweat with access to water while their hunted prey will overheat, so that method doesn't work in temperate or cold climates.
- Even in temperate and cold climates, One Hit Kills with arrow or spear weren't guaranteed even for skilled hunters, so wounded prey often had to be tracked overland. Bloodloss and panic would wear the prey's endurance down while the hunter followed.
- Another real life example is wolves. Which are as adapted to cold weather endurance as humans are to warm. When the two species started working together (with wolves becoming dogs), everything made of meat was basically screwed (hunting with dogs).
- Komodo dragons. The Komodo has a very nasty venomous bite that causes, among other things, inhibition of blood clotting, lowered blood pressure, hypothermia (as a result of the previous two), and paralysis. It will chase and bite its prey again and again relentlessly, using its superior stamina compared to other lizards as a weapon, until the prey falls dead from shock.
- This could almost be called the "Russia Gambit", as this is basically how Russia won two major wars. Both the Napoleonic Wars and World War II were won by Russia constantly retreating into colder and colder territory while using their near-limitless numbers to slowly wear the invaders down.
- The Napoleonic Wars actually were a subversion in many ways, as the Russian Army in 1812 was heavily outnumbered by the French and their allies, and the Grande Armée sustained the majority of its losses (through exhaustion, dysentery and typhoid fever) in the summer and early autumn, on the way to Moscow. But the war still lasted well over a year after the French recrossed the Russian border, and in the spring of 1813, despite one major ally - Austria - declaring itself neutral and another - Prussia - joining the Russian side with a much-expanded army, Napoleon succeeded in assembling an army in Germany well superior in numbers to the Russo-Prussian forces. It was only after Austria joined the anti-Napoleonic alliance that Napoleon's forces became numerically inferior.
- The Vietnam War also counts, with North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh famously declaring "if the Americans want to make war for twenty years then we shall make war for twenty years. If they want to make peace, we shall make peace and invite them to afternoon tea." In the end, the Americans underestimated the North's will to fight for years against a technologically superior foe while also taking horrendous losses. In other words, the U.S. military could go home after the war whether they lost or won, while the North Vietnamese's only option was to win the fight because they had nowhere else to go.
- China. Jiang Jieshi gambled on the Japanese suing for peace rather than prosecuting a protracted war, which he believed that his Chinese government could well withstand - if not quite win, as such - and figured that when faced with the prospect of a full-out war the Imperials would accept a face-saving settlement note Unfortunately, the Japanese expected that the prospect of protracted warfare would cause Jiang to fold and come to the negotiating table first, also failing to understand that the ''Nationalist'' Party couldn't be seen to cave in to Foreign Imperialism in an unequal settlement of the kind that the Japanese wanted from the conflict, because doing so would be tantamount to political suicide. So both sides escalated the war. They were still dogging it out when the USA used Japan's occupation of Indochina as a pretext for embargoing Japan in an attempt to get them to negotiate an end to the war. Because the ruling clique back home couldn't be seen to back down to 'American Imperialism', Japan entered the wider war with an all-out naval-based invasion and occupation of south-east Asia. Allocated secondary importance in the Pacific War - the USA decided that it would use its own forces to 'island hop' its way over to Japan, instead of deploying US forces in China and/or equipping Jiang's forces such that they could go on the offensive themselves, both of which would require ridiclously complex supply lines - The Guomindang was basically made to sit out the rest of the war and given just enough lend-lease material not to become a liability to the Allied cause. In the end, the Guomindang survived the war - but once the supply of American money was cut off at the war's end, their regime imploded. They'd been on the edge of doing so in 1942, and American money had staved it off for a while, but they hadn't been given enough to actually fix their problems - just enough to put them off for another day. In 1946, that day came hard.
- In fact this was quite basically the entire Allies' modus operandi for the entire war: with 60% of the world's industry and 80% of its manpower, the Allies never really had to worry about losing once it became clear that the Soviet Union wasn't going to sue for peace in 1941-42 - not that Hitler would've accepted their proposals, of course. Nor could even Stalin have survived consigning 40 million of his people to death and another 120 million to slavery by a foreign dictator - if the Soviet leadership hadn't lynched him for trying it, The Proletariat would've done it themselves.
- The day-and-night bombing campaign of Germany and Occupied Europe eventually began to appreciably hamper Axis military production by late 1943, though it cost the lives of many thousands of airmen and hundreds of thousands of civilians to get to that point.
- In a Real Life knife fight between two skilled opponents, if you can't get a easy kill, the idea is to nick the other guy and let him "bleed out". Which doesn't mean he bleeds to death, it means the blood loss tires him out.
- It's also worth noting that this tactic not only can easily be applied to combat of just about any form, but often is the deciding factor. The more a fighter exerts themselves during an offensive, the quicker they will tire. Violence is one of the most physically draining activities that human beings can engage in, and if a victory isn't achieved within the first minute, it's extremely likely that the fight will end in favour of whoever has greater endurance.
- In one Grand Prix race in the 1930s, William Grover Williams, racing for Italian automaker Bugatti, was up against a German team whose cars were more powerful. Williams realized that he couldn't catch the German leader in a flat-out race, but that the German's more powerful engine would drink fuel faster than the lighter Bugatti, so he eased off and waited for the German to put in for more fuel. During the time it took for the German to refuel, Williams overtook his pole position and secured his spot at the head of the pack, winning the race.
- This is still a viable way to win a race, much to the dismay of some NASCAR fans. (Although 'who runs out of fuel?' drama is something in and of itself ... )
- Roman formations were used to capitalize on this.
- That, and the front ranks could be easily allowed to retreat to the rear for a break while fresher troops stepped up (also, the knowledge that if they can survive the first 2 minutes of a battle, they would be rotated out to safety goes a long way to encourage the front rankers to fight harder).
- Speaking of the Romans, their victory in the First and Second Punic War fits the description, as they soaked up tremendous losses (in the First Punic War, Rome lost two entire fleets crewed by about 100,000 men each to storms) and crushing defeats (e. g. against Hannibal in the Second Punic War) but kept on fighting for years until eventual victory. More over Rome could replace their loses at a quick pace, and have a steady flow of resources, whilst Hannibal had a finite amount of troops and have no means of replacing any of his loses.
- In a number of cases a war of attrition was the way to prevail against an alliance, in effect by continuing to fight until the differences among the powers fighting you become so great that the alliance fractures, or you even succeed in wooing one of the allied powers away from the others.
- In the Hundred Years War, Henry V of England was allied to the Burgundians, which put him into a seemingly unassailable position to rule France, yet the Dauphin (later Charles VII) fought on and in the end succeeded in coming to an accomodation with Burgundy, which enabled his forces to drive out the now outnumbered English during the reign of Henry VI.
- France came out of the War of Spanish Succession in a much better shape than expected because the war continued until the Habsburg claimant to the Spanish throne died, leaving the German emperor as next in line and thus creating the possibility of one Habsburg ruler of both the Holy Roman Empire and Spain. This led to the British concluding a separate peace and the French winning the final battle of Dinant against the Austrians and Dutch.
- The Seven Years' War from the Prussian side became a war of attrition after the Prussians began to suffer serious defeats starting in 1757 at Kolin. Frederick the Great continued the fight until some of the powers fighting him dropped out of the alliance (first Russia, then Sweden) and Maria Theresia's other allies lost their determination to reduce Prussia to a marquisat of Brandenburg. But it was a close-run thing, and Frederick would have failed without British subsidies.
- Similarly, the first French Republic profited from Prussia and Spain leaving the anti-Revolutionary alliance in early 1795 and concluding separate peace treaties in Basel.
- This was Italy's initial strategy in World War I: the Italian commander-in-chief Luigi Cadorna knew his troops couldn't match Austria-Hungary in terms of equipment (even if they did ultimately manage to almost bridge the gap, with Italy actually achieving a superiority in artillery), so he gambled on the enemy having to fight on two fronts (with the other being Russia) to achieve local superiority. It ended up failing, but barely: Austria-Hungary ended up breaking through the Italian lines and give Italy an hell of a Curb-Stomp Battle at Caporetto (to this day, after almost a hundred years from the battle, Italians still use the word "Caporetto" to say "crushing defeat"), but the Austro-Hungarians were on the verge of collapsing and in an untenable position (that's why they attacked in the first place), and the only reason they managed to pull it off was a combination of idiocy from Italian officers (who could have spoiled the attack had they been smart enough to act on the intelligence they had), the Russian unexpected collapse allowing the Austro-Hungarians to bring most of their forces on the Italian front, and Italian politicians declaring war to Germany too, thus giving them the excuse they needed to send in some elite forces to soften up the Italian lines.
- Then done successfully by Cadorna's successor Armando Diaz: the Italians were on the defensive and forced to mobilize their last reserves, but their main weapon factories (a major target of the Austro-Hungarian offensive) were intact and free (thanks to a mountain Cadorna had filled with artillery specifically for this case), Germany had recalled their troops, Allied support had finally bridged the equipment gap, and Austria-Hungary had mobilized their last reserves before Caporetto, thus they couldn't replace the losses of the attempts at breaking the new Italian defensive line.