Neon Genesis Evangelion: Rei's mantra "If I die, I can be replaced!" is a rare case of a character invoking this trope on herself, which is exploited by Gendo Ikari. She can. We have the technology. This practice disgusts Shinji, who is at least concerned about Rei's individual well-being.
Played straight with other pilots. In the Unit 03 incident where he casually orders it destroyed with the pilot (Touji in series, Asuka in the Rebuild films) still inside, and activates the Dummy system when Shinji won't do it and based on his comments about needing Shinji and Rei together in Rebuild, it's hinted he deliberately took the chance to eliminate Asuka, so she wouldn't become a unknown extra factor in his plans..
Mad Scientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi of Bleach is a particularly horrific example. He turns a number of subordinates into living bombs without them knowing it, and tells them to simply convince two protagonists to come with them. Instead, he detonates them while they're standing around the protagonists, including one who survives his comrades exploding because "A bomb isn't supposed to come back after being used".
Aizen considers every minion and teammate expendable.
The Vandenreich Emperor tore apart murdered two of his Arrancar minions with paper-thin justification. When pointed out that Arrancar were a valuable resource, he simply replied that having captured Hueco Mundo, they could make them at will.
Mad Bomber Kimblee of Fullmetal Alchemist turns fellow soldiers into living bombs in the anime and indiscriminately used one as a human shield in the manga.
In the manga, Amestris' entire philosophy during the Ishval Civil War was this. Naturally, the soldiers like Maes Hughes did not take kindly to this, and Amestris officers were frequently shot by their own men. This was, however, less a matter of callousness and more a deliberate attempt to kill as many people as possible on both sides to empower the Philosopher's Stone.
In Naruto, Orochimaru kills the squad of teenage ninja (minus Dosu, who was already dead) he had infiltrating the chuunin exams in order to use their lives to resurrect several deceased ninja leaders just to help him win one fight. One of the resurrections even ends up failing and kills its component ninja anyway. He even told Kakashi earlier that he considers any of his subordinates without special worth worthless pawns.
In the anime Now and Then, Here and There, an insane king orders a superweapon fired on a battlefield where his own men are fighting the enemy. Thing is, he didn't have reserves (not enough, anyway), and spent an episode or two freaking out over it before deciding to kidnap more people to draft into his army. The fact that they're children makes the use of this trope even more effective than usual.
In Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, a Federation commander starts what turns into a string of Kick the Dog moments when he deliberately marches mobile suit teams into traps in an attempt to cause a nuclear blast when their reactors go off, destroying or at least uncovering the Zeon base hidden in a mountain.
Supplementary material from the One Year War-era series indicates this is the entire purpose behind the RB-79 Ball - a small, unarmored, slow-moving space utility pod made combat-capable by mounting a heavy cannon on it, shortcomings which they attempt to make up for by producing as many of the little buggers as they can. Later Federation Mobile Suits aren't much better - the GM, a mass-produced version of the Super Prototype Gundam, has only about half the offensive potential and has no core block system to save pilots that are shot down.
In Gundam SEED, the Earth Alliance activates a cyclops system hidden beneath their Alaska base when it comes under attack by ZAFT. The system nukes everything within 10 miles of the base and kills nearly everyone defending it. This actually helps the Atlantic Federation as it kills off most of the Eurasian political moderates and allows the Earth Alliance to pursue a more genocidal path towards ending the war. This is what causes the Archangel crew to finally defect from the Alliance.
Muruta Azrael and Lord Djibril, leaders of Blue Cosmos, and by default, the Atlantic Federation both use this as their strategy. They believe their men to be expendable, and in Azrael's case, actually classes some of his soldiers as equipment, rather than personnel.
Crossbone Gundam has a particularly extreme example. The Jupiter Empire tends to be very strict with its resources (like air, water, and MS) because these things are a lot harder to come by so far from Earth. This attitude, however, does not extend to human beings; early on, the heroes learn that their well-intentioned mercy is pointless, as the pilots they capture and release get executed by the Empire as punishment for allowing their MS to be destroyed.
Subverted in the Bokurano manga: It is eventually implied that the adults who were assigned to assist the main-character children in their battles for the fate of the universe are actually there to kill any children who refuse to fight, because under the series rules such a refusal would otherwise doom the universe, while killing them will just automatically switch control to their replacement. A subversion, because it is implied that this is the right thing to do; the one child who figures it out (on his own) agrees that he might not be able to fight, and tells them to kill him quickly if it comes to that point.
In Claymore, it is revealed fairly early on that the shadowy organization in charge of Claymores sends them on suicide missions whenever they become too dangerous. Possibly justified by the tendency of Claymores to suffer Super Power Meltdowns.
This doesn't really count since they are not throwing them against those opponents because they do not care if they die but because they want them' to die because they are too problematic. This trope still applies for this series, however, since the slaughter at Pieta was this (the organization throwing all of its "less valuable" warriors into a battle they could not survive without hoping for them to accomplish anything worthwile aside from slowing the enemy a little).
During the final arc of Code Geass, Lelouch (the protagonist) takes this trope to an extreme, having Mind Controlled an army into being his slaves (making them all wear masks that make it clear that these are not longer human beings, just pawns) and then using them in battle in ways that would ensure their deaths (using them as bait, or sending them to be used as shields against nukes) without concern. How bad this makes him look is exactly what he is pretending to be, for the sake of uniting the world against him and bringing about world peace.
This was the strategy of the Chinese Federation, who used 4th Generation mechs when the rest of the world had 5th-9th Generation Knightmares at their disposal. However, they had way more troops than the other countries, hence their invocation of this trope.
Often demonstrated by the villains in One Piece, usually in contrast to the protagonists who are shown to be caring for their crewmates and avoid innocent casualties. Examples: Captain Kuro, who uses a randomly striking killing technique while his men are in the area and planned to off them ALL anyway to cover his tracks ("They are worthless except to further my plans!"); Enel, who would destroy a kingdom full of his own subjects because only he deserves to live in the sky; and massive idiot Spandam, who doesn't really care about (accidentally) invoking ten battleships to obliterate Enies Lobby and all its staff and soldiers if it gets him his success. The most multi-layered Bastard award goes to Crocodile, who while posing as a local hero protector of the populace, incites a civil war in Alabasta, and during the climax of which has a massive cannon aimed at the centre of the warring parties (including his own agents provocateur among them) to wipe them all out in one swoop. More than that, the cannon's giant bomb is rigged with a timer to go off even if it isn't launched, which Crocodile's own elite agents guarding the cannon don't know!
Averted with Captain T-Bone, who rips apart his officer's cloak to make bandages for his men, and when later facing the Strawhats, his first concern is what happened to the troops they had to have gone through.
Even if they aren't necessarily the villains, some of the Marines show this behaviour too, as the doctrine of "Absolute Justice" implies that any evil should be eradicated at any cost. This is shown during the Buster Call in Enies Lobby, when one warship was destroyed (along with one thousand marines) by the others in order to kill only one criminal; one of the captains even shot a marine who hesitated in following the order.
Mad Scientist Caesar Clown in the Punk Hazard arc shows us clearly that he doesn't give a shit about how many people he has to kill for his experiments. Hell, he'll even do so with a huge smile on his face if it means succeeding, and gloats about the fact that the children he experimented on will not survive five years, all the while being a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing to all of them. Damn !
In the third volume of Hellsing, Tubalcain Alhambra sends waves of Brazilian police officers to attack Alucard, fully aware that they are no match for him, so that he will use up most of his bullets to make it easier for Alhambra to fight him.
Meleagros and Atalantes in Heroic Age are willing to do this, being as prideful as they are, they would do anything to win at all costs.
Gorg Bodolza plays it straight in Macross Movie when advised that he probably shouldn't fire his Wave Motion Gun on Lapramiz' Mobile Fortress as there are thousands of his own ships in the line of fire. He orders the attack regardless. In retrospect, a bad idea, as witnessing the resultant massacre gives Breetai Kridanik second thoughts, which later end up turning the tide of battle.
Xanxus from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is like this, so much that when the Varia were battling Zakurou, Kikyou, and Bluebell, and Zakurou asked him what it felt like to watch his men killed, Xanxus said 'Would you be distracted seeing a bunch of ants dying?"
In Sengoku Basara, many of the villains seem to take this attitude, but none more so than Mori Motonari, who regards all his men (and indeed his opponents' men) as disposable...and for that matter uses the term "sacrificial pawn" far more than any decent commander should.
In A Certain Magical Index, Fiamma of the Right doesn't care about his teammates in God's Right Seat. He declares that he is the only important member and as long as he lives, he can get new members.
In the English dub of Axis Powers Hetalia, America has a "great" plan to defeat the titular Axis Powers. Russia's role? Keep sending in cannon fodder!
In Freezing, Scarlet Oohara may be willing to perform excruciatingly painful experiments on young girls in order to reinforce the only capable fighting force against the Novas, but she does genuinely care about her subjects and doesn't want to hurt them any more than necessary. Too bad the brass are demanding quick results, even if forcing things could result in the girls' deaths, and always remind her that they could get new girls in. Even worse, the E-Pandora project was never meant to produce viable results. The recruits were nothing but a means to buy time for Scarlet's real pet project to bear fruit.
In Space Battleship Yamato 2199, the Yamato attempts to use Gamillan warp gates to save time. Coincidentally, the enemy Field Marshall is holding a fleet review as a prelude to seizing control of the Empire at a major gate hub they must pass through. As the Yamato breaks through the ten thousand-strong fleet, the Field Marshall orders his ships to open fire. Friendly fire and collisions destroy more ships than the humans do, at least until the Wave Motion Gun destroys the gates' power source while escaping via Recoil Boost.
Rather horribly justified in Berserk: A Kushan general doesn't seem to care whether the Rain of Arrows initiated by him lands on his own troops. This is however part of the Kushan's tactics, since the soldiers put in the front lines are not actually Kushans but people from the countries invaded by them. This way they can save their own troops, plus it has a demoralizing effect on the opponent. The biggest advantage is that, since the invading Kushans are constantly getting new reserves, they can use tactics like this and still keep growing in strength.
Green or white small creature decks are often centered on this.
Decks built around Goblins not only employ cheap creatures whose only purpose is to get a bit of damage in at the opponent before dying any one of numerous ways, but creatures that give you beneficial effects for intentionally sacrificing them. A few examples: Dragon Fodder, Goblin Grenade, Siege-Gang Commander...Just pray that this goblin deck does not include a copy of Coat of Arms...
The Thrulls of the Fallen Empires set were treated this way by their masters the Order of the Ebon Hand. The Order's downfall began when they made two big mistakes: 1) they let the Thrulls' breeding get out of control, and 2) they started creating more intelligent and powerful Thrulls capable of using magic.
Starr from Preacher does this at least once, sending a US tank division against the Saint of Killers. Starr's reaction to them being butchered mercilessly by the guy who replaced the Angel of Death is to shrug, say that he didn't really expect it to work anyway, and call down a nuclear strike on the spot.
Starr's former Bad Boss, D'Aronique, similarly ordered waves of his own men into certain death against the Saint. Although at least D'Aronique had no idea who the Saint was, his callousness to the deaths of his men is horrifying.
Grail Officer: Requesting permission to withdraw the next charge, sir. D'Aronique: Denied. Instead you will lead it.
In the X-Wing Series arc "Battleground: Tatooine", the Imperial captain Semtin heads to Ryloth after a criminal he wants; the Rogues follow. The relative sheltering this criminal, bribed by both sides, decides to have them compete in a not-quite Combat by Champion to see who gets him, and the Rogues impress the judge◊, but the Imperials did fulfill the stated goal. Plus, Semtin bribed the judge, snuck in and grabbed the criminal, and fled with him, abandoning fourteen seasoned troopers on Ryloth, where they faced being sold into slavery. The troopers, who gained a great deal of respect for the Rogues during the contest, immediately pull a Heel-Face Turn and go after Semtin, who had this to say before he was shot.
Semtin: I told you the mission would involve sacrifices! You should be willing to give up your very life for your Emperor! Sixtus: For the Empire, yes! For the personal gain of its officials... never!
In the "Retreat" storyline of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Twilight allows his troops to be massacred by the three Wrathful Goddesses because he's curious to see the goddesses in action. When one of his subordinates calls him on it:
Twilight: They're mortals. Got to die sometime.
Played absolutely straight by Jhiaxus in the Transformers Generation 2 comic, in which his reponse to staggering losses is to throw another wave of troops into battle with the Warworld and the Swarm.
In a short appended to a The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers tale, Fat Freddy's Cat has a particularly successful campaign against the cockroaches that live under the oven. From memory, paraphrased:
Junior Officer: General, the entire brigade has been wiped out! General: There's plenty more where they came from.
Fables shows a battle involving a General who states his willingness to sacrifice gladly a hundred thousand men to kill any one enemy, and who demonstrates this by piling corpses against the castle walls high enough for troops to climb all the way up and then taking one enemy's head before retreating.
A Captain America storyline used it to contrast a Card-Carrying Villain with a Noble Demon. When Baron Zemo sent waves of HYDRA mooks to get captured as a distraction while he broke Codename:Bravo out of the Raft, Zemo comments that this is what HYDRA mooks are for, but Bravo replies that he respects the sacrifice of his soldiers.
Films — Animated
During the climax of Kung Fu Panda 2, Lord Shen orders Boss Wolf to fire his cannon at the heroes. Knowing that the other wolves will get caught in the crossfire, he refuses and Shen kills him before doing it himself.
In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the general preparing for battle splits his soldiers into two operations: Operation Human Shield, consisting of the black soldiers, the all-important first attack wave expected to take heavy losses, and Operation Get Behind the Darkies, consisting of everyone else. Naturally, OHS, being lead by Chef, subverts the entire plan—by ducking.
Chef: Operation Human Shield, my ass!
Operation Human Shield members were tied to the outside of tanks to supplement their armor!
In Dark Fury, Junner apologizes to Antonia that he allowed Riddick to kill a lot of mercs in his capture. Antonia shrugs off the loss, stating how little they mean to her and ordering Junner to unfreeze more mooks. Later on she unleashes a huge carnivorous monster after sending a team of mercs after Riddick, even though it has a habit of killing people indiscriminately and indeed ends up eating them.
In Shrek, Lord Farquaad views the knights as expendable, saying when he describes the assignment to Save the Princess, "Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make." (Shrek, since he's an ogre, is even more expendable, so Farquaad doesn't end up sending any knights.)
Films — Live-Action
As illustrated by the quote above, Edward the Longshanks of Braveheart. He actually does it twice in one battle; in addition to the example in the quote, he begins the battle by ordering his commander to send in their Irish conscripts first because "Arrows cost money. The dead cost nothing". This bites him on the ass as they promptly switch sides.
Imperial Stormtroopers and TIE fighters are considered 100% disposable. Even Star Destroyers, massive expensive warships crewed by 37,000 people, were treated casually by Vader; in The Empire Strikes Back, he ordered these enormous ships into an Asteroid Thicket. While his captains had convened to holoconference with him and plead to leave the asteroid field, an asteroid takes out the bridge and one of them fades away, and he effectively sneers it off.
Palpatine, Vader's boss and the leader of the Galactic Empire, is even worse: In Deleted Scenes for Return of the Jedi, and also the movie's Novelization, Palpatine orders Jerjerrod to fire the Death Star's superlaser at Endor should the Rebels capture the shield generator. When Jerjerrod voices his reluctance to carry out the order due to the presence of their troops on the planet, Palpatine tells him that he will go through with the command. At least one legion, if not several battalions were stationed on Endor at that point, meaning that the Emperor has absolutely no qualms with murdering several populations of his forces if it meant destroying the Rebels.
There are a few exceptions to this in the Expanded Universe novels. For example, in The Last Command, Grand Admiral Thrawn states than he is less than happy over the loss of four — four! Luke kills that many in his first firefight on the Death Star! — stormtroopers, less than forty regular army troops, and a single assault vehicle, who were convinced by a private contractor to attack a group of people who were discussing going against the Empire.
Thrawn's attention to his troopers and machines becomes the rule later on, when the Empire is no longer the massive entity it used to be and is struggling to survive.
Even Thrawn did have his moments of counting on reserves. When it came to the Noghri commando units that he sends to capture Leia and her children, he dismisses the fact that a second one of these units has failed and been wiped out, essentially says that their loss is really not worth worrying about and that sooner or later one of those units will succeed.
The Prequel Trilogy puts an interesting twist on this already-established trope, in that the droid armies of the Separatists are cannon fodder compared to the clonetroopers. The EU and novelizations make this a bit more clear, but it's obvious even in the movies. The Separatists co-opt all of the big industrial groups in the galaxy, who already have their own large mercenary armies (think Haliburton and Blackwater), composed of droids. They can manufacture billions upon billions of droids, rolling off the assembly line ready for battle. They're completely willing to expend these droids because they're not really "alive" and utterly replaceable. In contrast, the clonetroopers/early stormtroopers were actually a step away from this trope when they first appeared on the battlefield. Clonetroopers take about 10 years to create, which is drastically less than a normal soldier, and you can make them in large numbers but that's nowhere near the matter of hours it takes for a droid to roll off the assembly line. However, as the films explicitly state, droid soldiers tend to be fairly stupid, while the clonetroopers have free will and can think for themselves, adapting to the situation and gaining experience. The Separatist forces actually consistently outnumbered the Republic for most of the war, because they could just keep replacing war droids. The problem was that the clonetroopers ultimately proved to be a better fighting force, repeatedly winning against numerically superior droid armies.
Revulsion over this is what drives Gara Petothel's defection to the Republic in Wraith Squadron, after Trigit decides to sacrifice the tens of thousands of crew members to keep his Star Destroyer out of Republic hands. Trigit's boss, though, is a little more canny - in Iron Fist, he decides to hire a fleet full of mercenaries and pirates to get shot at in lieu of his troops during a major attack.
After the Vong Invasion and the Empire coming back, they seem to have stopped this; the TIE Fighters have shields (and had since the days of Thrawn), and stormtroopers know how to aim now.
The Vong themselves go through this much faster — their low-level soldiers have no qualms about giving their lives in battle. Later, Supreme Overlord Shimmra is seen chewing out his high officers because they've thrown away too many men and are having trouble holding their conquests.
Done humorously in the movie Mystery Men, where Casanova Frankenstein kills his own men for no other reason than to mention to the heroes he is so evil and uncaring that he kills his own men.
In Batman Forever, Two-Face fires indiscriminately at Batman while one of his goons is in the way.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has Moran trying to shoot Watson from a sniper's nest, but his own henchman is blocking his view of Watson. He finally shoots the henchman ("Toldja!") to get a clear line of sight.
Raiders of the Lost Ark has Indy in a fight with a group of Major Toht's henchmen. Towards the end of this, he ends up wrestling one of them for a gun. Toht gives his other henchman the order to "Shoot them. Shoot them both!". This doesn't work too well, since both Indy and the mook now want to use the gun on the same target.
In X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto takes a step away from his usual place as an Anti-Villain to order a group of weak mutants to lead a charge. He holds back his eager new apprentice Pyro from joining the charge, telling him "In chess, the pawns go first." When they get mowed down (revealing the other side's secret weapon, guns that shoot Power Nullifiers), he comments "That's why the pawns go first".
Downplayed when Captain Miller started to fall into this tactic while still shell-shocked from landing on Omaha Beach during D-Day, twice ordering small groups of his squad to try to charge a machine gun position. After this he realizes what he's done, and instead has his Cold Sniper take out the machine gunner, while Miller risks his life to distract the gunner.
In Galaxy Quest, the Big Bad orders the Protector destroyed once he learns that the Galaxy Quest crew escaped, even though many of his men are still on board.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Jack is at least willing to hire a hundred men to his crew and then give up their souls in order to pay off his debt to Davy Jones, an act which even Jones can't believe Jack is capable of. But in the third film, after a brief taste of death, Jack is willing to throw the entire population of Shipwreck Island — his brothers in arms — at Jones and the IETC armada.
It's about a French general in World War I ordering a desperate plan to at long last break through the German lines, knowing full well the attack is certain to kill most of the men used in it (he even has the statistically probable numbers worked out). And he's doing it mainly to earn a promotion.
During the battle, when the rest of the French soldiers have come up out of their trench and advanced across the no-man's land, a SNAFU has caused the French B Company to still be hanging back in their own trench. The French General orders his artillery to fire on B Company in the hope that they'll be scared out of the trench and attack.
In Zulu, a 1964 film depicting the Battle of Rorke's Drift, the Zulu open the assault by getting close enough to the defended position that the British can easily shoot those in the front ranks. Lieutenant Chard remarks that King Cetshwayo is "testing our firing strength... with the lives of his men."
In Gallipoli, Colonel Robinson orders three waves of men to attack the Turkish Trenches at The Nek, even though all three are completely gunned down. He justifies it as a diversion for the British on Suvla. In reality, it was a diversion for a New Zealander attack.
Slightly indirect version in The Dark Knight. The Joker pulls a bank job working with what are at least some highly skilled thieves, who kill each other one by one under orders, leaving the Joker with all the money. Apparently the Joker has no worries about finding other people to work for him.
Enemy at the Gates opens with the Red Army advancing on the German front lines at Stalingrad. When each troop passed the Commissar, they were handed either a rifle or a single clip, and were then forced to charge against the well-armed Germans, and were gunned down by NKVD machine gunners if they tried to retreat.
Commissar: "The man with the rifle shoots! The one without follows him! When the man with the rifle gets killed, the one who is following picks up the rifle and shoots!"
In Starship Troopers, both the Bugs and the humans apparently follow this philosophy, with the former obviously benefiting more from this tactic. Special mention goes to the attack on Whisky Outpost. After the Mobile Infantry shoots hundreds of Bugs from the compound, the dead Bug soldiers simply leave so many piled-up corpses in their wake that the next wave can simply walk right over the walls.
In The World's End after more or less clearing a pub of the Blanks, the group has a Mass "Oh, Crap!" when the exact same Blanks walk in through the front door, realising how screwed they really are.
In Alien, Ripley learns that Special Order 937 is "Priority one Insure return of [xenomorph] for analysis. All other considerations secondary. Crew expendable."
In the fantasy series The Death Gate Cycle, one of assassin Hugh The Hand's jobs was to kill a mercenary captain who tended to take all the money his company was paid for a job, then order them into situations where as many of them died as possible so he wouldn't have to split the pay.
Hugh was also hired to kill a human army captain that had repeatedly over the course of his career sent many men to their deaths while he ran away. While doing this again, Hugh caught him and listed the names of everyone who had wanted him dead before killing the man.
Scum. That's what he called his own soldiers. It's like that bloody civilized game you showed us, Teach! The prawns [sic] are just there to get slaughtered while the king hangs around at the back!
Lord Rust seems to have studied in Hong's class. See what happens with any army he's entrusted to, though his tactics seem to be born from blatant stupidity, rather than malice. One would imagine an army commanded by the troll Sgt Detritus would be more effective, if only because Detritus would lead from the front and scare everyone away. (As of Snuff even Vimes has to admit, however, that Rust is neither cowardly nor dishonourable, even if his bravery and honour are hard to tell from his stupidity, and while the fact men were killed under his command is undoubtedly his fault, the fact he himself was never killed isn't, since he always led these suicide charges personally, and simply seemed to be protected by his implacable conviction that he was too noble to be killed.)
While temporally displaced in Night Watch, and in command of a barricade that got out of hand, Vimes notes that a thousand soldiers could take it, but only the last fifty would make it up by climbing the bodies of their fallen comrades.
The yardstick for measuring any General in Discworld seems to be "massive casualties." While having those casualties coming from the enemy is preferred, having most of them come from your own troops is still perfectly acceptable.
Conversely, Generals who manage to achieve victory with relatively few casualties are looked down upon as somehow not playing by the rules.
In the Honor Harrington series, we have the People's Navy. How closely they fit the characterization aspects of this trope changes over time as Haven suffers serial revolutions. The first government depicted gleefully sacrifices their "worthless Proles" for the aristocracy's betterment; the second theoretically have more respect for the common man, but they're fanatics, ready to shoot any officer who won't steer his ship into the meat grinder themselves. The restored Republic of Haven is much less callous about the quality of quantity.
The Solarian League Navy is noted on the Honor Harrington page itself as being so large, even their reserves have reserves.
The Malwa in Belisarius Series. In fact it seems that the main job of most Malwa soldiers is getting killed.
Venandakatra, Malwa commander of the forces in the Deccan, is explicitly stated to care as much for his soldiers as he does for insects. The one time he refrains from attacking, it's because he'll run out of reserves if he does. Another example comes from fellow General Failure Lord Jivita. At the Battle of Babylon, he throws his troops against the walls of the city, getting a truly massive number of them slaughtered.
Interesting subversion in Enders Game. Ender, nearing a mental breakdown from stress, is given a wargame situation where the enemy outnumber his forces 1,000 to 1. Trying to be removed from the strain, he orders a suicide mission that destroys the enemy homeworld... except the simulations he's trained with since graduating from Battle School haven't been simulations at all, and he's sent almost the entire attack force on a suicide mission that destroys the enemy home planet. When this is revealed to him, he lapses into a coma.
This is foreshadowed by a battle in Battle School, in which Ender's army is forced to fight two deeply-entrenched armies. Realizing that even his genius tactics can't defeat them, he has the entire army make a formation and charge the enemy lines. Just in case, he has five boys perform the victory ritual if they can get close enough to the enemy gate. Surprisingly, he wins, although most of his army is "destroyed". Colonel Graff then changes the rules requiring the other army to be fully "destroyed" before victory can be declared. Ender explains that he didn't expect to win and has a mini-breakdown after that, refusing to participate in battles.
In Shadow of the Hegemon, this is the strategy used by the Indian army when invading Burma, and everybody is quick to point out how stupid it is. Just because you have the world's largest army doesn't mean your supply lines are up to the task, especially if the enemy keeps harassing them. This is all part of the Big Bad's Evil Plan in order to allow China to strike and take India in under a week before proceeding to take Thailand. Strangely, the book takes the Adults Are Useless approach, with no adult seeing how bad this strategy is.
Jaime Lannister of A Song of Ice and Fire may be trying to go the route of The Atoner, but when he finds himself caught between two oaths he means to keep (never raising arms against a certain family, and as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, ending that family's defiance of the King), he tries to Take a Third Option and convince the enemy lord to surrender without a battle by giving a To the Pain speech full of how he'll win due to We Have Reserves.
You've seen our numbers, Edmure. You've seen the ladders, the towers, the trebuchets, the rams. If I give the command, my cousin will bridge your moat and break your gate. Hundreds will die, most of them your own. Your former bannermen will make up the first wake of attackers, so you'll start your day by killing the fathers and brothers of the men who died for you at the Twins. The second wave will be Freys, I have no lack of those. My westermen will follow when your archers are short of arrows and your knights so weary they can hardly lift their blades.
Speaking of the Freys... They kind of have this attitude about members of the family they don't particularly like, too. Well, there are a lot of members any particular one won't get along with at any time, after all. They'll all use a family death (or deaths) for a way to get something out of the situation, even if it's only satisfying a sense of Disproportionate Revenge down the line. On top of the feeling that there is safety in numbers, the Freys also combine this with a will to remind people they exist by sticking their noses in wherever they can. Which is not that bright, as pointing out how many of you there are to people who detest your very marrowmight get you deliberately used as Cannon Fodder. As highlighted by Jaime, above. Enough of that kind of thing happening, and even the Freys will eventually run out of reserves, let alone key players.
Tywin Lannister also used this at times; for example, putting all the least experienced and/or least disciplined soldiers on the same flank so that enemy will break their lines and rush into a trap. For extra Kick the Dog points, he set his son Tyrion to lead them without informing Tyrion of the plan.
The Posleen from John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata are genetically engineered just for this tactic. However, the trope is averted at one point, when a group of semi-trained human soldiers are blocked by a small number of Posleen, and refuse to move forward. A General arrives, and orders a soldier to advance so they can locate the Posleen's location. When the soldier refuses, the General kills him. He then orders a second soldier to advance: the soldier and several of his fellow soldiers do so, and take the Posleen position with a few additional casualties. When he is asked about killing the first soldier, he says that taking the position cost some soldiers their lives, both from the Posleen and from him, but *not* taking the position would have allowed the Posleen to wipe out the entire squad and more soldiers behind them. He is not happy that he had to kill the soldier, but he stated that his way far fewer soldiers died.
The Black Gryphon: One of the generals thinks nothing of throwing the flying troops (the gryphons) into hopeless situations, and forcing mages to spellcast into exhaustion. Most of the army believes this is due to incompetence with some Fantastic Racism thrown in; in actuality, it's due to a lot of Fantastic Racism and a secret Face-Heel Turn.
By The Sword: Kerowyn reads the mind of her mercenary company's employer and finds that he plans to sacrifice them to avoid paying them. She resigns via an Insignia Rip-Off Ritual, and the entire company follows her.
Ancar of Hardorn is absolutely ridiculous about this (and several other things), and his troops only go along with it because they are brainwashed. When some of the good guys manage to release the brainwashing on a company of troops, they apply this trope to themselves and attack the rest of the army with no heed to their own safety, having nothing left to live for.
In Winds of Fury, Big Bad Mornelithe Falconsbane becomes an unwilling ally of Ancar and ends up turning the latter's existing tactics Up to Eleven, virtually guaranteeing Valdemar's destruction by Zerg Rush unless the heroes can assassinate the entire leadership of Hardorn.
In the Sword of Truth series, the Imperial Order has this methodology, partly because they believe the next best thing to killing unbelievers is to die while killing unbelievers, partly because they believe individuals are worthless, and partly because the army is so massive that even if they lose a million men, that's still barely a dent in their forces.
An attacking goblin horde in Piers Anthony's Castle Roogna used a rather literal goblin-wave tactic — they crossed the moat by filling it up with drowned goblins, and scaled the wall by climbing over each other until the army was running up a huge pile of trampled-down goblins.
In First & Only, Dravere is explicitly described as saying that if he could throw enough bodies at the Eye of Chaos, he could close it. The attack of the Jantine Patricians at the climax, to overwhelm the Ghosts' Hold the Line forces, puts it into action.
In Ghostmaker, Sturm orders the bombardment of an area where he knows the Ghosts are operating on the grounds that they have enemies in there. He specifically regards the Ghosts, and Gaunt, as trouble he would be well rid of.
In Armour of Contempt, a wave of Imperium troopers, so tightly packed that the dead were carried along, unable to fall where they died, assault the walls of a city several times. Eventually, they are successful, but at horrible cost.
This is the default tactic of both Saruman and Sauron's armies in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. The command style of the Lord of the Nazgūl during the Siege of Gondor: "Yet their Captain cared not greatly what they did or how many might be slain; their purpose was only to test the strength of the defence and to keep the men of Gondor busy in many places." The passage also notes that as he's riding on his horse he deliberately tramples the fallen (who would mostly be his own men), which says something about his attitude.
JRRT was a veteran of WWI and was wounded at the Somme. 'Nuff said.
Used in World War Z by both the Russian and Chinese armies, often to horrifying effects. If one didn't know that both those countries have a history of such tactics, (see the real life section below), they might think Max Brooks was making it up or had an ax to grind with those countries.
The primary problem with using this strategy on zombies is that they use the exact same tactics by instinct, and they recruit by killing. So by sending your own people to die, you inflate the ranks of your enemies.
In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Encarmine, Iskavan is told that he and his Word Bearers had been sacrificed to lure the Blood Angels to Shenlong, and having served that purpose, they will get no reinforcements. Then, Iskavan's reaction to the news is to start a rampage with women, children, and the wounded.
In Deus Sanguinius, the Warmaster points out that he sacrificed them for this. He gets no sympathy.
The Big Bad in any David Eddings series will inevitably have this mindset. In the backstory of The Belgariad, the Dark God Torak marched millions of Angaraks off to the West in a suicidally insane war that left not one survivor to return to the East. In The Malloreon, his successor as Child of Dark, Zandramas, similarly views her minions as utterly expendable, sending them to certain death against the heroes multiple times simply to slow them down, or on the off chance that one of them will get lucky and prevent her from having to see the Prophecy to its conclusion. The demons in that series behave this way with respect to the human troops under their "command", force marching them for days without a care for the death and suffering — or rather, reveling in it.
Emperor Ezar Vorbarra in the Vorkosigan Saga has this mindset and takes this trope a step further — he has the army mount a hopeless, bloody attack on another planet in order to get his insane son killed off without anyone suspecting assassination. Too bad about all of the other soldiers who were killed ...
An interesting example from Iain M. Banks' The Player of Games: the protagonist is freaked out when he realizes how much the Emperor personifies this trope, even though the reserves he so casually sacrifices aren't people but pieces in a very elaborate game. The reason he is freaked out is that the game is expressly designed to mirror the player's values and philosophy — meaning that the superficially charming and civilized Emperor has revealed himself as Ax-Crazy.
Empress Jadis in The Magician's Nephew brags that she "poured out the blood of her armies like water" in the civil war with her sister for control of Charn. And then trumped that by speaking the Deplorable Word, an unspecified spell which destroyed Charn and killed everything on it except herself.
Subverted in the Legends of Dune trilogy, where Omnius and his Thinking Machines fight battles in a logical and efficient manner. A massive fleet will not engage the inferior enemy if the casualties are above the acceptable parameter, even though machines aren't really supposed to care about casualties. It falls to his ruthless Brain in a Jar generals, who do fit this trope, to come up with tactics that surprise the enemy. One of their tactics — dropping a cruiser on a city to destroy the scrambler field emitters that are keeping the machine forces from invading. On the other hand, the Butlerian Jihad forces will not hesitate to lose hundreds of lives to destroy several machines, as exemplified by the takedown of the Humongous Mecha Ajax by hundreds of angry slaves armed with primitive rocket launchers and more primitive clubs.
The Draka use their slave soldiers (called "janissaries" in reference to the Ottoman military units) in attrition situations that their elite shock troop Citizen army cannot finesse, thereby saving the much more precious lives of the Master Race. A Draka officer is reprimanded at one point for showing too much concern for the lives of his janissaries. Eventually the Draka engineer aggressiveness out of their slaves, and the janissaries are replaced by the part-baboon, part-dog, part-humanghouloons who serve much the same purpose.
Cultural-divide example in Codex Alera: when the Marat go to war, the first wave of an attack is always the green recruits, the warriors who most recently became of age. The ones who survive that are considered to have been smiled on by The One, and get to participate in the battle proper.
In Shadowmarch, Autarch has no qualms about letting his soldiers die meaninglessly, as long as he accomplishes his goal. During the siege of Hierosol, he ordered full scale attack through the breach in city's walls, despite being warned of massive casualties it will cause among his troops. He explained that his soldiers should be happy to fight and die for their autarch.
Subverted in Chaos Walking. Mayor Prentiss' army consists of approximately 1,000 people plus some artillery. He has no reserves to speak of but he acts as if he commands a significantly larger force, even manipulating events to manufacture a war against an army that outnumbers him approximately 20-1.
This was how humanity was able to defeat the Elves in the Ryria series. Elves are superior to humans in every way (stronger, faster, tougher, more technologically advanced, and better at magic), but the humans could replenish their losses in twenty years, while the elves would take millennia. As one of the heroes put it, "the elves were drowning in a floodtide of humanity."
In The Stormlight Archive Highprince Sadeas uses slaves to carry the storming bridges needed to cross the chasms that divide the Shattered Planes. This involves running straight at the enemy army, while carrying a bridge over your head, while they're shooting at you, then putting the bridge in place and getting out of the way of the real soldiers. Every bridge the enemy takes down decreases the army's ability to deploy. Naturally, this is always a bloodbath, and it takes Kaladin a while to figure out why it's done this way, and why the slaves are denied armor: Sadeas deploys an excess of bridges, so that the Parshendi have no realistic chance of taking down enough to stop the army. But the Parshendi aren't disciplined soldiers, and the idea of taking down a bridge is tempting enough that they still try. If they armored the bridgemen, they'd be more likely to realize it was futile and start shooting at the soldiers. As far as he's concerned you can always get more slaves; soldiers aren't so easily replaced.
Averted in The Art of War, which cautions that while you have to be willing to take casualties when it becomes necessary, a great general is one who tries to win with as little blood shed on either side as possible. Even if you do have reserves, it's more pragmatic to keep as many men alive in an engagement as you can, because that way you still have reserves in the next battle.
You don't think we watch you? You don't think we have friends in Savannah? We have friends everywhere, guy. And yeah, you got that big crazy Polack protecting your little girl so we lose a couple of guys taking them out. But that's okay-we get more guys.
Blackadder: this is outright stated to be the entire basis of British tactics in the First World War. Bonus Bastard Points for the instructions, "Climb out of the trench and walk very slowly towards the enemy," the phrase "Operation Certain Death", the apparent fact that it's taken Field Marshall Haig three years to realise that, "Everyone gets killed in the first ten seconds," and the portrayal of Haig formulating his battle plans in the last episode by setting up toy soldiers on a table and sweeping them off. And lets avoid making comparisons between this fictional portrayal and the real life Haig.
Spike and Holland Manners give speeches to the respective protagonists about how evil works like this: that every apocalypse they prevent will surely be followed by another one and that they have an unlimited number of soldiers on their side, all who need just one good day to kill them.
When the three wrathful goddesses are unleashed by the Slayer army against Twilight's soldiers, the general immediately wants to retreat. Twilight tells him no, since he wants to see what the goddesses will do to the soldiers.
D'Hoffryn: "I have plenty of other girls."
Quentin's view on Slayers.
Doctor Who: Like most tropes, this shows up, sometimes on the Planet of Hats. Still, a human example: Henry Van Statten seems less concerned with his guards than he is with a certain relic they're fighting for their lives against. Subverted Trope: The foolishness of this begins to dawn on him when he orders them to take the relic alive, only to realize that nobody's left to take the order.
NCIS: An interesting variation of this happened, during the investigation aboard the ship they weren't allowed to know about. After they recover the nuclear weapon and leave, a missile blows up the secret ship. One of them asks, "How did they know we got off?" The answer? "I don't think they knew."
Revolution: In episode 3, the Monroe militia captain Jeremy Baker's squad has besieged the rebels' hideout. The militia was armed with primitive weapons, while rebels got their hands on an advanced sniper rifle. His solution: hope that the sniper would run out of ammo before the militia ran out of men. While Baker never had any formal military training, he had spent the last 10+ years as a soldier so should have learned basic military tactics.
Robin of Sherwood: In one episode, when Robin Hood threatens to kill some of his Mooks, the Sheriff coldly replies: "Soldiers have a way of dying; it's an occupational hazard."
Smallville: One episode had a teaser sequence with Lex Luthor testing his latest experiment. The test involves the Super Soldier charging down a hallway, killing mooks, breaking into a heavily fortified room and assassinating a target. When it's over, what does Luthor say with glee? "Get fresh guards...I wanna see him do it again"
The Vorta Keevan gives the heroes his battle plan because being taken prisoner would be better for him than being stranded and wounded with a bunch of Super Soldiers about to go Ax-Crazy from withdrawal. Particularly nasty since his soldiers are warned that they've been betrayed, but are too loyal themselves to disobey. And the genetically engineered Jem'Hadar were programmed to see themselves as disposable, all willing to attain victory for their gods The Founders at any cost.
One Jem'Hadar mentioned that they are combat ready days after their "births" and managing to live to twenty makes a Jem'Hadar an honored elder. In the several thousand year history of the Dominion, no Jem'Hadar has ever lived to be thirty (though that might have a different explanation).
Star Trek: Voyager: The Borg Queen is prone to this with her Borg Drones. While this would make sense for Borg, she takes it lengths that become comical. Notably, the time she decided the best way to deal with a handful of freed Borg on the ship (where the free drones were outnumbered at least 20,000 to one) was to blow up the entire Cube.
Though that was more about proving a point to Janeway and trying to prevent future freed Borg than it was about stopping those particular few.
Earlier on, when a Borg cube suffers from an unknown pathogen, the Collective simply disconnects the ship and its surviving drones rather than sending a ship to investigate a probable high threat to the Borg's existence.
Andromeda: The Magog employ this tactic, as their worldship has trillions of them and billions of swarm ships. Lampshaded in the first episode of season two:
Rommie: We have driven off the first wave of Magog assault ships.
Dylan: Yeah, but the Magog can always send more. Magog suck.
The Imperial Guard commonly employ this tactic; Commander Chenkov of Valhalla in particular has a reputation for throwing away the lives of his men, the gaining of which is quite a feat for a Guard commander, though at least he has the balls to dive into the meatgrinder with them and lead from the front. The fluff claims that his bolt pistol has killed more cowards than enemies, and that he once took a fortress that had withstood siege for years without artillery or armoured support at the cost of 10 million casualties (though this is the Imperium we're talking about - they could cover those losses with one round of draft slips). The new Codex highlights his knack for reserves by giving him the special rule "Send in the next wave!", which allows him to call up a new squad of Conscripts once the previous squad has been wiped out, as described wonderfully by 1d4chan:
"Do you want to take that point? I mean, REALLY take that point? Seriously, how many dudes do you want to throw at that point? Chenkov can throw that many guys at the point, AND MORE."
The job of the Planetary Defense Forces job in an invasion is to slow the enemy down by being the enemies dinner until the real troops arrive.
Also, the Orks, whose entire warfighting strategy is "assault the enemy with troops stretching back past the horizon." In Dawn of War, Warboss Gorgutz is actually lauded by his own troops for being willing to hurl countless numbers of Boyz at enemies like the Space Marines and Necrons, fully aware that many are going to die. It helps that Orks consider an exciting battle against a worthy opponent to be jollygoodfun. Gretchin are considered even more expendable than Orks. One use for Gretchin mobz in past editions was removing minefields in much the same way as a stick removes a bear trap. If there were more mines than gretchin, they died to no notable effect, generally prompting loud bursts of Orkish laughter. The Gretchin have several other delightful jobs, such as being stepping stones in rough terrain, bullet shields, and emergency rations.
Tyranids. Some of the Tyranid flavor text has them sending mooks to assault enemies, just to make them use up their ammunition before sending in the big guns. As a matter of fact, those same mooks have no digestive tract; they are not intended to survive the battle they're built for, and if by some fluke they do, the more important creatures just eat them when their purpose is served. Any Tyranids that the hive fleet sends to attack a planet are just going to be digested and recycled into new Tyranids, so it's not quite as asshole-ish as some of the other examples.
The 4th edition Codex even gave Gaunts (The Nids' ranged mooks) the Without Number rule as a buyable upgrade; if a unit with the rule was wiped out, you were allowed to put a new unit just like it on the field.
The 5th ed fluff for the Gargoyle describes a siege on a heavily guarded fortress world by the Tyranids. The gribblies won because they sent in so many flyers that their corpses blocked laser cannons capable of punching through a moon.
The Lost and the Damned faction of Chaos is explicitly employed this way, as it is essentially composed of gibbering mutants, demons (who can't be killed, only sent back to the Warp), and human traitor rabble. Generally they run at Imperial forces who waste ammunition gunning them down. More disturbingly they usually do so with a smile on their face.
In fact, out of the whole 40k universe, the Tau, Space Marines, and the Eldar are remarkable for the fact that they don't have reserves. The Tau get around this by using someone else as their Reserves, the Space Marines have support from the Imperial Guard and are mostly used for tactical strikes anyway, while the Eldar cope by using stealth, guerilla tactics or - even better - just tricking someone else into fighting their battles for them. For everyone else, though, it's mainly just lots and lots of reserves. The Necrons also don't have reserves, since they have no way of making more of their own kind outside of converting the rare blank into a pariah. They make up for this with teleportation and auto-repair technology, ensuring that no Necron is ever permanently destroyed.
Even the Dark Eldar have reserves, in a weird way (though not usually in tabletop terms). Almost all of the Dark Eldar race are clones quickly and cheaply, with live born children (called Trueborn) are considered special and are pampered and taken care of (and get their own unit). Oh and if you kill one of the leaders, so long as they get some of the corpse (not all, some) back to the Haemonculi within a certain amount of time (usually a day) then the Haemonculi can regenerate their entire body. So even if you kill the leaders, they'll be back later. Some Haemonculi have considered death to be an interesting experience. Reserves indeed.
Lets just say there's a reason WH 40 K has its own section on the Quotes page for the trope.
The Skaven from good old fashioned Warhammer have a Slave Mooks unit with a rule called life is cheap which lets their player bypass the game's taboo for shooting into close combat. Which doesn't seem quite that impressive until you realize they're one of the few armies with ready access to Gatling guns and flame throwers in the game's medieval setting.
This is a bit of an interesting example in that sacrificing their own troops is actually a necessity. Skaven are designed for it, breeding like the rodents they are based off of and eating more than the average human due to their high metabolisms. If not for this they would suffer from severe overpopulation and political instability (well, more than usual) as a result. This doesn't mean they aren't evil.
In the background Dark Elves do this with slave troops (one story has them herd their recently captured slaves onto the battlefield where they shoot them down to serve as cover, interfere with the enemies cavalry and to demoralise the enemy (it works)) though it doesn't happen in the game itself.
Chaos Dwarfs also have disposable slave troops, mostly Hobgoblins but other Goblinoid races as well, while they couldn't fire into combat they did have a large amount of area of effect weaponry that was fairly indescriminate, also in past itinerations they had a magic item that caused Hobgoblin heroes to explode........
As is that of the Bretonnian peasants. Fortunately they have longbows and can kill at distance and run away should things get queasy.
Kobolds in Dungeons & Dragons tend to use such tactics, since they are possibly the weakest and fastest-breeding humanoid race. The soldiers are proud to do it, too.
This is expanded upon in the sourcebook Races of the Dragon — Kobolds intentionally cultivate the opinion that they are weak and pathetic so that people will leave them alone or otherwise underestimate them, but at the same time, an individual kobold's outlook on life is that it doesn't matter if he dies, as long as his city survives. This pseudo-communist outlook covers all of kobold society from the top down, and influences kobold city defense — the older (and thus, not as likely to breed) kobolds will happily throw themselves en masse at an enemy to give the rest of the city enough time to escape.
Goblins are likewise content to get mowed down en masse because they breed even faster than kobolds. Orcs do it too, but mainly just 'cause they're dumb, overconfident, and have no sense of tactics.
4th Edition has a feat for players which increases the power of area attacks if you include allies in the area. Reserves or not, you're expendable if I want my +2.
There are a lot of area attacks in 4E that ONLY target enemies. Chilling Cloud for example allows Wizards to target enemies in melee without risking damaging their allies. Invokers, Divine Controlers, specialize in these sort of 'party safe' spells and can benifit greatly from Coordinated Fire without invoking this trope.
The Cheiron Group in Hunter: The Vigil hire people to go capture supernatural creatures for experimentation... with their only preparations being a book filled with half-truths and outright fables. Hey, with the way the job market is, if anyone dies, we can hire new ones!
Eclipse Phase may or may not count for this. Given that actually dying isn't that big of a deal, and that a fair amount of character types (robots, nano-swarms, etc) probably couldn't feel pain anyway, there is certainly a healthy disregard for the value of individual life, even though the players work for a conspiracy dedicated to preventing the extinction of transhumanity. Within the fiction of the rule books grazing team mates with plasma rifles to hit the bad guys, sacrificing yourself to buy time, straight up murdering a friend and exploding your head with an anti-matter bomb (all for the sake of the mission) shows up. And that's just in the first short story. Everyone is expendable and people dying is an accepted part of the trade and just not a big deal.
Pretty much how the origina board game Risk works. The game mechanics are very simple: capture territory, raise an army, overwhelm your opponents, Lather Rinse Repeat.
Enough Plumbers, a free online platform game, has this as part of its gimmick- with the reserves being clones of the protagonist.
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin plays this straight, with everyone you're supposed to dislike being shown treating their troops like, well, pawns in chess. Meanwhile, anyone sympathetic is guaranteed to give Big Bad Caulder a lecture on the importance of human life. (The one character who says nothing either way is decidedly gray in most other aspects of characterization).
Hawke directly uses this line of reasoning before the battle Rain Of Fire, fought around an active volcano (to force the heroes into a land battle rather than an aerial one). And he's the most sympathetic of the villains.
Meta example: Mech Spam tactics. These tactics involve taking advantage of the fact that each enemy unit can kill at most one of your units per turn by using large amounts of cheap, weak mechanised infantry to block attacks on strong but fragile artillery units, which in turn can be used to kill units who attack the Mechs.
Suikoden II: Luca Blight kicks off the game by slaughtering his troops under a false flag.
The City of Villains Mastermind Archetype, 'Traps' has a move that allows you to turn your own minions into walking bombs. If you're using Zombies or Robots, they just plain blow up, while more human minions such as mercenaries, thugs and ninjas - will try to put down the bomb and run away. Which doesn't always work very well, seeing as the bombs have pretty short fuses.
Moreover it's the entire point of the Mastermind archetype. Your pets are disposable and easily replaced; you're not, (death may be cheap, but it's still more of a nuisance than summoning and buffing new pets after a near-catastrophe). Later averted when the class switches to a shared health bar between master and pets.
The Infected Marines however fit the bill, they are created merely as human bombs to do serious damage to the enemy.
Starcraft's Terrans - Marines had an average of 2 seconds combat time before death, which was considered acceptable until sheer numbers of losses started to cost more to replace them all the time. Stimpacksdecreased that further. The use of Medics increased that time to a respectable 5 seconds! However, the Terran Dominion considered it acceptable since their Marines are Boxed Crooks.
In Final Fantasy VI, Kefka poisoned the water source that both Doma and sieging Empire troops used to break the siege by killing everyone.
In Final Fantasy VII, Heidegger's response to a threat was to throw more troops at it.
In Crisis Core, one of the most powerful SOLDIERs escaped from one of Hojo's labs and is heading for Midgar? Send out half the army to take him down! And watch as half the army is completely devastated.
By the end of the original game, he doesn't have any more troops to throw at the heroes, and instead has to go into battle himself.
Both the undead and the demons in the Warcraft series follow that line of thinking. The undead because they can raise the casualties of both sides, the demons just don't care.
Especially in the case of the undead, the cannon fodder would get slaughtered and the necromancers would raise twice their number worth of skeletons. By the time the elites showed up, they'd be little left to do other than mop up.
The human commander who sends the Blood Elves to face the Undead with no support, because "The only good nonhuman... Is a dead nonhuman", even though the Alliance is already desperately short against the Undead already.
World of Warcraft features the Battle for Light's Hope Chapel, where Arthas ordered his death knights to attack in order to draw out Tirion Fordring, and when he appears explains he expected them to get cut down. As death knights are his few free-willed servants, they were not pleased.
And then there's the Battle of Wrathgate. Horde and Alliance finally came together to fight the Lich King at the Wrathgate, but the Lich King slew Saurfang, the leader of the Horde's army, though the rest of the fighters were holding their own. Grand Apothecary Putress interceded in the fight, launching barrels of plague at the armies, forcing the Lich King to retreat...and utterly decimating the armies of both the Horde and the Alliance, as Putress walks away saying "Death to the Scourge...and death to the living." Naturally, no one's happy about that, so along with Wrynn/Thrall, you siege the Undercity and take out Putress/Varimathras (depending on faction). This act alone severed any possibility of the two factions working together, even if the Horde had nothing to do with it.
Disgaea encourages you to treat Prinnies this way, what with them exploding when thrown and only ever costing 1 HL to revive after battle. Doing this doesn't even count against "Allies killed" for purposes of determining which ending you get.
The Nintendo Hard PSP platformer spinoff Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? uses this in an interesting way: The game has no one-ups, but instead you start with 1,000 Prinnies in reserve, with the player character being whichever Prinny happens to be next in line. You're going to need every single one of those Prinnies too, since they die in a single hit on the hardest difficulty setting (and only get two extra hits on the easier difficulty).
A recurring theme in the entire Metal Gear series, where the Patriots, an Ancient Conspiracy, have a tendency to view anyone as disposable. Although ironically, if you do kill enough soldiers and backup units in 2 & 3, you can stop worrying about getting an alert raised.
In the "Chronicles of the Sword" mode in Soul Calibur III, your player character's emperor, Strife, becomes increasingly paranoid by your character's military successes and growing popularity, and decides to throw your character around to increasingly suicidal or demeaning battles, trying to both deny your character's unit any glory and to get them killed, despite being his empire's version of a Special Forces Unit. Ironically, the replacement he finds to oversee the battles you were commanding before he starts to try to get you killed screws the pooch on it so badly he'd probably have lost the war and gotten himself killed if your unit wasn't worth a damn.
Near the end of the 9th Fire Emblem (Path of Radiance), Ashnard purposefuly gives the Crimean Army an advantage by dividing his forces, just so he can fight Ike, because he is impressed by his strength.
The Begnion Senators in the sequel are even worse. They forbade retreating, ordered troops into volcanic caves just to see if the enemy was still alive, continued fighting after the majority of their forces retreated in direct violation of orders, so they executed him, their finest general, and when their particular province was attacked the units were more concerned about bounty than, say, living.
Even gameplay-wise, the AI-controlled units occasionally behave like this. The AI may send a barrage of units at your Mighty Glacier, only for them to die in one hit, but they managed to inflict 2 damage and free up the space on the map so the next unit could move there and attack. This proves to be exploitable, but annoying to anyone who gets attacked after forgetting to equip a weaker weapon instead of the fragileInfinity+1 Sword or watches ten cavaliers come from out of nowhere and murder the Glass Cannon in a narrow pass.
This trope is generally the basis for most battles in Supreme Commander, due to the fact that Most units are very cheap and quickly built with a decent economy.
The generals leading the good guys in Valkyria Chronicles. The aristocratic generals really don't give a damn about the "peasant" militia and generally palm off all of the suicide missions to them. Fortunately, Welkin's superior tactical planning manages to overcome this and the generals suffer a well deserved Karmic Death.
The heroes aren't much better, what with not giving a rat's ass about the thousands of their own countrymen dying in a blink of an eye.
The Total War games run on this trope, up until Rome, you didn't have any city population so as long as you can pay for them you can just keep pumping out a never ending wave of weak cheap units you can just throw at anything until it dies (in fact in the 2D game the enemy will often run away rather than agree to a fight if you have a large enough army invading). The Newer games however do, so early on your going have to use your forces wisely but once you get your economy going and a good population grow you can just send waves and waves of green peasent solders to weaken the other nations so your vets (which you want to live) can break them.
That said though, avoid getting the green peasants to rout. Too many units rout at once and your Vets will break quite easily.
Without heavy-duty, specialized siege equipment like catapults, you're going to be forced to use these tactics when assaulting cities. Heavy infantry will need to move under constant arrow fire to bring ladders, rams, and siege towers to the walls, and then storm the walls where enemy defenders, likely including their own heavy infantry, will likely be standing and ready to chop apart the first wave to get atop the walls. Defenders also get a defensive bonus while fighting on the walls, and their arrow towers will be firing into the attackers the whole time. In short, you're going to have to commit a lot of troops to take defended walls. it's easier with siege weaponry, which can knock down walls and open up a large breach, but a strong defending force can still bottleneck the attackers and inflict heavy losses.
Hilarious example in Total War Rome 2. Due to a typo in the game's coding, sub-saharan African provinces had massive income, which resulted in in non-playable minor African factions steamrolling historical powers Egypt and Carthage (and occasionally annihilating Rome as well) with endless waves of cheap disposable units in campaign mode.
In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, General Shepherd calls in an airstrike on top of his own men to stop Captain Price and Soap from getting to him.
Price:Since when does Shepherd care about danger close?
In Knights of the Old Republic, Darth Malak orders the destruction of Taris despite the presence of his own troops occupying the planet (cut content would have established that the Sith organized a hasty evacuation, but no reference to it remains in the final game).
Another example from Malak, at the finale when he learns the heroes are rampaging through his base, he orders all of his troops, including apprentices, to attack. A surprised admiral asks if he really thinks that will work, to which he scoffs and says it is only to slow them down.
In Star Wars Battlefront, there's a game mode called Galactic Conquest where either 1 player faces off against the computer or 2 players face each other trying to conquer planets one by one across the galaxy. Each planet conquered will give a different bonus that a player can use in battle. One of these is called secondary reinforcements and it has some elements of We Have Reserves. The way it works is that at several points in the battle when your troop count falls to a certain number you will suddenly get new troops added to the count, imitating a new wave of troops coming into battle. These troops seem to be even dumber and, (believe it or not) have worse AI than usual, but sheer numbers will often overwhelm an opponent or at least give the player a chance to kill off all the enemies or capture all the command posts by themself. (Nothing sucks more than being in a close battle, glancing up at the troop counts for both sides, seeing that both sides have about 40 troops left and thinking to yourself Hey, I can still win this only to see the other side suddenly get another 20 men added to their count. Cue the Oh Crap).
Juno Eclipse: I don't understand. Why would Vader allow us to destroy so many Imperial targets? Starkiller: To sell the deception. Credits, starships, Imperial lives... they're all meaningless to Vader.
In the second game, Baron Tarko has a similar attitude.
Star Wars: The Old Republic: This appears to be standard policy for Imperial officers, Darths, and Empire officials in general. The officers shrug it off; they're just "common soldiers." The Sith don't give a bantha's rear about much else other than themselves and their power games (the Emperor is an Omnicidal Maniac who wants everything in the galaxy except himself dead), and Empire officials follow the lead of the military and Sith. Couple this with Klingon Promotion being the preferred method of advancement (it's just gauche for a non-Sith to not be sneaky about it), and the Empire does more damage to itself than it does its enemies. Manditory conscription and extensive use of slave labor is likely the only reason they managed to get off Dromund Kaas. The fact they caught the Republic by surprise (thanks to Revan and Exile having ''no backup plans'' and walking into an obvious trap) is the only reason they had any success at all.
In Overlord, this is your attitude towards your own Mooks. Fun ensues.
Many Real-Time Strategy games will end up either encouraging this in their players, or doing so as their AI. Most noticable in the first Command & Conquer game, when using ground troops against the laser towers. Laser tower = one guaranteed dead enemy soldier, or one very heavily damaged enemy vehicle, every few seconds. Infantry = lots of 'em, I can crank them out so fast I can't deploy them fast enough, and eventually.
While various factions in various games incur bonuses for sacrificing troops. Examples: C&C Red Alert Yuri's Revenge where Yuri can feed troops (own or mind-controlled enemies) to the Meat Grinder for cash. Starcraft and Warcraft III where Zerg and Undead can 'eat' their own troops for energy/mana.
Strongly averted in Company of Heroes. The costs of getting a unit or vehicle to the frontlines is much, much more than the cost of reinforcing or repairing it (compare 270 manpower units for a basic rifle company, compared to 30 units each for each member of the squad, up to five). In addition, the American units gain veteran bonuses as they survive in combat, and veterancy only survives if the unit does: if your elite unit of riflemen are all killed, they take their elite status to the grave with them.
COH does have an example of this trope however. The American armor commander has the "Allied War Machine" ability which, when activated, gives you free tanks to replace any that are destroyed during the duration of the ability (although there is a rather hefty munition cost to use this). Be prepared for more of this trope though when Company of Heroes 2 comes out, which takes place on the Eastern Front.
Real Time Tactics games, generally avert this trope by giving you fixed units in the game, though this gives another problem of destroyed units being Lost Forever (except in World in Conflict which allowed reinforcements to replace lost units). Some modern RTS also avoid the "We Have Reserves" type gameplay by taking psychological issues of individual units into account, which makes sending troops into suicide missions tactically prohibitive.
A rare example of this trope in play with a military that does value its personnel's lives is in Mass Effect. According to the Codex, fighter groups that launch torpedo bombing runs on larger ships will always suffer casualties due to virtual intelligence-controlled GARDIAN laser point defense; the only way to defeat these defenses is to overwhelm them with sheer numbers until they overheat. As a result, fighter wings always take heavy casualties when attacking an enemy fleet. Though while the first fighter waves are always hit, it's not as if everybody in the first wave dies. Indeed, because the strength of the lasers drops off the greater the distance to the target due to beam diffusion, it's rare for the GARDIAN systems to score more than a few actual kills. What generally happens instead is that the first waves of fighters take a bit of damage and are forced to return to base.
This is implied to be the krogan military strategy in a nutshell. There are always more krogans, forever—the only way that the Council was able to defeat them was by reducing the rate of viable pregnancies to one in one thousand, and it was still enough to sustain their population.
Geth don't place much value on individual mobile platforms; if one is destroyed, the geth in that platform transmit their memories and experiences to the nearest carrier, and that data is uploaded to the total gestalt geth Mind Hive, effectively making the geth immortal. However, they aren't stupid - they will still try to preserve mobile platforms if possible in order to to maximize combat effectiveness and resources. Plus what happens to the programs within mobile platforms not connected to the geth collective.
Legion: No carrier, no carrier, no carrier, no...(*thunk*)
If Commander Shepard has the 'Ruthless' background, his/her military claim-to-fame is being the Butcher of Torfan, where s/he ordered his/her men forward, knowing many would be gunned down, also knowing it would ensure victory. Torfan was a base used by batarian slavers responsible for hitting human colonies, and the attack is a response meant to curb this trend: Ruthless Renegade Shepard makes no apologies, as part of the "get the job done at any cost" mentality. Ruthless Paragon Shepard is somewhat haunted by the experience, but s/he believed sending a message to discourage repeats of Mindoir and Elysium was more important. Even then, Ruthless Shepard crosses (or came very close to crossing) the Moral Event Horizon anyway - s/he also killed the batarians that had surrendered.
Harbinger's thoughts on losing his own troops:
Leave the dead where they fall. The dead are useless. Ignore the fallen. Kill one, and one hundred will replace it. This form is irrelevant (to his current host)
Warlord Okeer gives us this wonderful quote, which summarizes krogan battle tactics:
Okeer: I say let us carry the genophage with us. Let a thousand children die for every one that lives. We will climb to victory atop a mountain of our dead — for that is the krogan way.
Interestingly, Mass Effect 3 gives us an example from a scientific perspective. A Cerberus scientist is trying to decipher the secrets behind huskification and indoctrination, some of the most advanced and dangerous examples of Reaper tech. Even though the technology is thousands if not millions of years beyond them, the fact that they have tens of millions of test subjects and a complete disregard for the lives of said test subjects allows them to make steady progress regardless.
The Reapers rely heavily on this for their ground troops, who are typically indoctrinated, cyborged victims of Reaper attacks; you will encounter a lot of examples where the main strategy they use to try and take a location or kill Shepard, assuming they can't have an indoctrinated agent open the doors for them, is "throw more husks/Cannibals/Marauders/Brutes at the problem until it goes away". They don't use it as often with Ravagers or Banshees, however, since after Attican Traverse: Krogan Team they have a limited supply of Ravagers, and Banshees can only be created from asari with a very rare genetic defect.
In Prototype, the Blackwatch explicitly state that they are using the United States Marines as the "shock troops" for the occupation of Manhattan and the war against the infected. Their purpose is to take casualties and take the blame for the destruction of the city to cover up Blackwatch's operations. At one point, one of the Web of Intrigue nodes indicates that Blackwatch anticipates Marine casualties per week to be between one thousand to two and a half thousand. Putting that in a perspective of modern military terms, total Coalition casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom - a full-scale war against a country - were less than a thousand over a month-long period.
The US casualties list from March 2003 to September 2009 was 4,334. That's over 6 years. Blackwatch figure the Marines will lose that many in about three weeks.
The Marines are thrown a bone in the end when they get all of the credit for saving what's left of Manhattan from the Infection and a nuke.
In Metroid, this is one of the things that makes the Space Pirates a serious threat. Absolutely everyone is expendable, from mooks to commanders, as long as the goal is accomplished. They will blow up entire planets just to kill one person, and the troops down there are even ordered to stay so they can stall.
Notably averted in Original War from Altar Interactive, a RTS with RPG elements. In the single player game (and multiplayer with the right settings), every person who dies is actually Killed Off for Real. Each of them has a name, skills and a face. You know them. When any of them dies, it's a loss not just for the war cause (the reinforcements are very limited) but for you as the commander personally. Over the whole storyline - if you let four guys die in the first mission, you are going to have to do without them for the rest of the game. The Russian/Soviet faction in the game employ this trope quite a bit though and the Arabians even more so - even then though, the losses are permanent and the soldiers are not very happy about it.
The military tactics of Thomas "Stonewall" Flathead in Zork Zero seem to match this. He routinely took 90+% casualties in military operations (Mainly suppressing tax riots against his brother the King's 90+% income tax), and held unit strength up with unlimited conscription powers.
Mouri Motonari from Sengoku Basara refers to his soldiers as "pawns" and will sacrifice as many of them as needed to fulfil his plans without batting an eyelid. He even has the ability to attack his own troops in-game.
In the Fallout mythos, this is how the New California Republic eventually beat the Brotherhood of Steel after a long war. The Brotherhood possessed advanced technology (as the entire point to their order was to preserve technology over human life) but their elitist and isolationist nature meant that replacing their troops was difficult while the NCR was a republic free to conscript thousands of soldiers.
The Legion is a more straightforward example; whereas the NCR values even the most lowly recruit's livest, the Legion regards themselves as expendable and that anyone who tries to capture them will not get them alive.
During the NCR/Brotherhood war, Father Elijah employed this tactic against the NCR when trying to secure the HELIOS One power plant, mainly because he could care less about the lives of his subordinates when it comes to the possibility of obtaining valuable tech. Later on, he attempted to use this very tactic to crack the Sierra Madre, only for many to succumb to Gold Fever and start killing each other out of greed.
Fear Effect. The Shop, the organization Glas used to work for, sent Glas and his entire squad on a mission. Said mission caused the squad to end up in an ambush that left them all dead or captured, except for Glas. Glas tried to order the squad to abort, but it was too late. Glas unexpectedly encounters his brother Drew and Drew shoots him in the back. Drew claims that the Shop knew that the squad would be ambushed on this mission, but it sent the squad on it anyway. Glas and his squad were not informed of this. Does anyone realize how much the idea of knowing that an ambush is going to occur and not warning anyone about it makes no sense at all?
In the 2nd game, Baron Tarko has a similar attitude.
Final Fantasy Tactics has this happen a lot. Spells (positive or negative) target everything within a range, either centered on a tile or a character. Since spells have a timer before they are cast, it's possible to do a lot more damage to your own forced than to the enemy.
On some maps and party builds, using a "muddle" (bottling up enemy troops in a tight area using your own troops to block tiles moving out) to bomb enemies is considered a valid tactic.
Necromancers in Guild Wars can raise undead minions from the corpses of fallen enemies that constantly lose health. You can heal them, but the longer they live, the faster they lose health. The proper way to use them is to let them soak up most of the enemy melee attacks or using spells to make them explode when they're close to the enemy.
Dragon Age: This is, essentially, how the Darkspawn fight. They're a mindless horde born by the thousands, driven by a single will. The Battle at Ostagar was doomed from the start, as their tactics relied on an enemy comprised of trained soldiers, not mindless brutes who don't care whether they live or die. That's why the Blights are so dangerous. The only way to stop them is to eliminate that will by killing the Archdemon.
Section 8: Prejudice: When Thorne calls in a bomber to try and kill you, it might frag some of his own troops. One of your allies points out his nonchalance about this.
Can be invoked by the player in Sins of a Solar Empire, especially early on. If an enemy player or CPU invades one of your planets, and you don't have a sufficiently sized fleet yet to meet them, you can start cranking out ships and send them into battle one at a time in an attempt to delay the enemy forces until your main fleet arrives, or you can build enough defenses to whittle them down. Can get expensive over time, which can be painful early on as you don't have a lot of resources coming in yet to keep making the units.
Alternatively, players can split their forces, and send the bulk of their forces to invade an enemy planet, while keeping a small portion behind to deal with enemy invasions, or in case their main fleet needs assistance. Which can prove to be useful should you end up fighting a multiple-front war.
The Punic Wars, a little-known game by the creators of Tropico, has this as the best strategy (may have been rebalanced in the sequel). Play as Carthage, train tons of the cheapest unit in the game, research an upgrade that pays you if they get killed. Your first army will be traded evenly with that of the enemy. You will come back with two armies instead, then four... you see where this is going. On large maps with many enemies, it's common to have columns of unmanaged, starved soldiers connecting your own city and several enemy towns, it's easier to recruit more than to feed them or pay for a commander to get them in formation.
The Heroes of Might and Magic series have always had somewhat of this mentality underlying it - after all, your troops are highly disposable, and another few hundred will pop up in your cities next week anyway. Of interest, however, is the sixth game, which simultaneously discourages this (by giving you a score bonus for minimizing or entirely eliminating losses), and allows you to re-enact the classic scenario practically detail-by-detail if you're a Might-based Haven hero. The 'Reinforcement' skill adds a number of temporary members to a chosen squad - these won't stick around after the end of the battle anyway, and thus are eminently expendable, perfect for canon-fodder. As long as the squad doesn't drop below its original numbers, you effectively suffered zero losses. And it just so happens that your upgraded ranged unit, the Sharpshooter, has a powerful attack that hits all units in a line, including your own. If firing into a melee, some of your own units are liable to be in the line of fire too. But hey - we've got Reinforcements, so it doesn't matter, does it?
In any MOBA game, you have a line of constantly respawning "creeps" who are there almost solely to take damage for the heroes (such as damage from towers). Some game actively encourage you to kill your own creeps to limit the amount of gold and experience your enemies get.
The "Quantity" Idea in Europa Universalis IV is all about this trope, making you able to have more troops and at the same time reinforcing any losses much faster.
At the end of Warframe's Gravidus Dilemma event, the Corpus board of directors pulled Alad V's funding not out of concern for the lives he wasted but the money he was throwing away.
X-COM plays with this concept. Both the original and the 2012 remake, Enemy Unknown reward the player for keeping their troops alive by making them more effective in combat. In the original, as they level up, their skills improve. In the remake, as they level up they get new classes and combat abilities, so highly trained and well-equipped soldiers will absolutely devastate late-game missions. The problem is that the road getting there is paved with the corpses of the soldiers who didn't make it that far. Rookies start out with piss-poor aim and equipment, plus you're always outnumbered by aliens, making it necessary to have reserves and Red Shirts given how death is a fairly common occurrence. To drive the point home, losing one out of four squadmates still gives a "Good" mission rating.
In Bravely Default, Dr. Qada has no problems with releasing a chemical weapon that can kill hundreds of thousands of people, both friend and foe, in order to win a war.
Near the end of Skyward Sword, the almost-last-boss summons dozens - even hundreds - of minions, with the sole purpose of stalling the player until the boss can revive Demise, the actual last boss, using Zelda's life force. Technically, he doesn't actually have reinforcements, as he throws all his might against the player at once, but he still treats his troops as expendable.
In the end though, Parson could only defeat the Ansom's forces completely by having his Dirtamancer and Croackamancer (meaning his earth elementalist and necromancer) work together to reanimate the dead volcano they're in. This ends up destroying both armies. It leads to a long What Have I Done period for Parson.
Tarvek: If we sacrificed every minion we had, we might take out one of them. Gil: That's a terrible plan! Minion: Thank you, sir! Gil: There are another twenty of them! We don't have enough minions! Minion: Er...
Responding to a group of his ogres demanding to be paid by killing them and turning them into zombies.
Dragon Redcloak (a goblin) orders a group of hobgoblin (whom he despises) mooks up a dangerous trail so they would cause an avalanche and ensure the safety of the others. Later he sends in unarmed troops against a guard monster, so it will fall asleep after eating them, and orders a human-wave style attack against a fortified city. After one of them dies saving his life, he realizes what he's doing and reacts with horror at what he is becoming and promptly stops the wasteful spending of lives.
In the Azure City siege, the death knight has hobgoblins throw themselves at the wall and die by the hundreds so that their bodies will create a ramp he can ride up.
In a bonus strip from No Cure For the Paladin Blues, Xykon kills a mook who has succeeded in slaying a dragon, because the XP he gained from this elevates him beyond a simple mook now—and also makes it possible for him, as a high-level caster, to get a bit of XP that he wouldn't get for killing an unleveled mook.
In Terra UEC General Cole Winters orders the Jolly Roger Squadron to launch an airstrike against a major Resistance base with no backup and no hope of rescue if they survive being shot down. Since they're that good, they pull it off with only minor losses (two fighters destroyed, with one crew of two Red Shirts killed and the other crew ejecting safely and being rescued by the Resistance to become part of the main cast).
Dragon Ball Multiverse: Bojack's gang was composed of twenty-seven members when it was formed, according to Bujin; according to the novelization, this is the reason why there were only five members left when they met the Z-Warriors.
SCP Foundation willfully sacrifice hundreds of its D-Class personnel when observing SCPs. Many of which die in cruel and painful manners, and even if they do survive over a month they get executed anyway.
Don't feel too sorry for the D-Class personnel though, they're recruited from death row convicts, ie murderers and rapists, to ensure expendable, unsympathetic Red Shirts for SCP experiments
Silent Rip: Uh, shouldn't we go help him? Gunhaver: Naw, he's just one of those Green Helmets. We've got like fifty of them.
In Generator Rex, White Knight is a particularly Jerky example because not only does he sacrifice the Redshirts and tell them to their face that he was doing so, he says that they themselves should be aware of that by now, and should therefore not be offended.
Also played for humor in Futurama with Zapp Brannigan, who once sent, in his own words, "wave after wave" of his own men to fight the Killbots, knowing that the enemies had an exact (though horrifically high) limit of how many humans they were programmed to kill before they shut down. The humor comes from the fact that this was actually seen as a perfectly viable strategy. ("Kif, show them the medal I won.") In a deleted scene from Love's Labours Lost In Space, a single Killbot, Corpse-A-Tron, is shown to have a kill limit of 999,999.
Another time, he actually used this tactic with SHIPS.
Bender: Sir, I volunteer for a suicide mission! ...lousy patriotism circuit! Brannigan: That's commendable, son, but when I'm in command, every mission is a suicide mission!
Avatar: The Last Airbender: After speaking against a general's plan to throw freshly-recruited troops at the front line, not only does Prince Zuko get half his face burned off, but he gets banished and sent on a Snipe Hunt, too.
At the end of Beast Wars Megatron succumbs to this, killing more of his soldiers than the Maximals ever did. Presumably he assumed that when you have a giant warship and superpowers (even by Transformer standards of being big immortal war machines) you don't need a lot of help.
By the time of the less popular sequel series, Megatron took this to the logical extreme with his Vehicon hordes. He had so many that the Maximals tore dozens into scrap metal every battle without making a dent in his overall forces.
In The Penguins of Madagascar special "Dr. Blowhole's Revenge", the titular villain threatens the penguins with his nearly endless supply of minions:
Dr. Blowhole: So what if they cut down ten, twenty lobsters? We've got MORE LOBSTERS!
His lobster minions pause in their cheering at that statement and look a little worried. King Julien however has a similar approach to tactics and doesn't look concerned at all.
In the Rainbow Magic movie, Jack Frost says this in the movie, saying his snowman army is comprised of expendable weaklings that can be replaced infinitely in battle. Said army disagrees.
Batman: The Animated Series. Tony Zucco, (an extortionist who set up the "accident" that killed Dick Grayson's parents), shoots at Batman with a Tommy gun, even though multiple mooks are likely to be hit as well and beg him not to.
Birdman episode "Meets Birdgirl". While Birdman is fighting Birdgirl, her boss Doctor Mentaur orders his minion to fire hydrogen "shells" (bombs) at them, even after being warned that the bombs will hit Birdgirl too.
The US did a kind of this in World War 2 where they sent out stupid amounts of ships, as quoted "the US built more ships than Japan could sink" which was meant literally. The sailors would be pulled out of the water and sent to crew new ships. This variant of the trope was less reprehensible than others, though many sailors of course did die. Of course, the the US and its allies certainly did not neglect defending those ships as best as they could from enemy attack while they were at this, which included also building fighting ships as fast as they could to do so.
Interestingly enough, the threat of endless American reserves in WW1 contributed to Germany's surrender.
The cargo carrying Liberty ships were the best example of this. Designed to be built fast and in huge numbers, it was said if one carried a single load of war material across the Atlantic it had paid for itself. So much emphasis was put on building them quickly, that it wasn't unheard of for welds in the hulls (welding was used in place of riveting because it was faster) to split open in bad weather even without the aid of the enemy.
Actually the Sherman (and the T-34 as well) was one of the most powerful tanks in the world when first introduced. It's just that the Germans eventually one-upped the Allies with the Panther and Tiger. Once the Americans got production underway however, it was decided to stick with one design to simplify the logistics chain. Indeed, the Pershing tank is designed in the war was equal to the Tiger, but as the production line would have to stop in order to start producing the more advanced tank, they simply never bothered. It might not have been such a bad idea either, considering the Germans tried the opposite and ended up with very few numbers of tanks.
There was also just the simple fact that American tanks (with which the British were also equipped in large numbers) had to be able to be used in amphibious landings, and heavy or super-heavy tanks like the Tiger, Panther, or Pershing were too heavy for the LST's of that time. The Sherman, being a medium tank, was more suitable for that purpose.
The T-34 was also used in this fashion, and the USSR is very liberal in sending them in swarms. The difference is that the T-34 was incredibly blind-sighted and could rarely even see far enough to fight, not to mention crippling communications problems. This was rectified in the later models, though, and by the end of the war the definitive T-34-85 was very much comparable to the Panther, except for the somewhat weaker armor, because it's already overloaded suspension couldn't carry any more of it.
When the bombings of Berlin escalated, the allied forces did all they could to provoke the Luftwaffe into attacking them. This caused large losses for both sides, but while the allies could replace the lost planes and crews fairly easily the Germans could not. It was one of the factors that eventually allowed the allies to gain air superiority first and air supremacy later.
The American daylight bombing campaign proved to be staggeringly expensive in terms of human life lost. The Eighth Air Force, which gets most of the spotlight for the air war over Europe, suffered 46,000 casualties, including more than 26,000 airmen killed in action (more lives lost than the entire US Marine Corps in that war, although in contrast to the Airmen, the Marines didn't charge en masse into enemy artillery fire as a matter of course). In addition to the 8th AF, the less-famous Fifteenth Air Force, operating out of Italy, also suffered severe casualties pressing their daylight bombing campaign in southern and eastern Europe throughout the war.
Royal Air Force Bomber Command in WWII. Air Marshall Arthur Harris had nickname "Butcher" amongst the RAF bomber crews.
One German general actually stated that Allies would have never gained air superiority had Germany not spent too much resources on strategic bombers. But Allies also spent large amount of resources on strategic bombers, which means that both sides basically sent crews of strategic bombers to die for little military value, while actually harming their own ability to fight the war. In fact, USSBS has shown that German military production reached its peak at actual peak of US strategic bombardment campaign, and only started to slow down after Ploesti fields were captured by the USSR.
In general during this period, while the notion of mass producing tanks and planes of inferior quality was an effective strategy for a few years, it simply could not be sustained with manpower losses, because while producing hardware like tanks and planes is simple and quick, recruiting and training men with the sort of skill required to handle even simple equipment was a significantly more lengthy process. As was shown in the case of Germany and Japan, while they were in fact capable of continuing to put out more then enough military hardware to meet their needs, they were chronically short of the experienced crews required to man them. Germany had lost a great many of its best pilots in the Battle of Britain while Japan lost all of its finest Carrier aircraft pilots in the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot". So while both nations were able to make good their losses of aircraft, they simply could never train pilots with the sort of skill to match their predecessors in a short time. So the lesson that could be learned from this is that while machines are expendable, the men who know how to use those machines are not. America, Russia, and Britain were quick to learn this lesson upon taking stock of their losses after WWII and realized that while quantity over quality had managed to win them the war, it had left them severely weakened with significantly lowered reserves of trained crews at the end of WWII, with countless American crewmen who had spent months in training left as charred corpses inside gutted Sherman tanks scattered across the French countryside. This may have been a key contributing factor in why the Cold War didn't kick off into full blown war after WWII, as both sides had to train an entire new generation of crews to replace those lost in the war, which took time.
This gave rise to the abandonment of Going Down with the Ship for officers that lose a battle. We Have Reserves of equipment, but a trained officer can't be replaced so easily. The Death Before Dishonor mentality instilled by Japanese officer training meant the Japanese officer corps kept getting worse, while the American and British officer corps kept getting better.
The entire concept of Kamikaze attacks were based on these, where Japan hoped that it would have more pilots and hardware to outlast their opponents. One Japanese General noted that they were "like bees" in that they swarm to sting the opponent, but died as they done so. Japan would seriously underestimate their reserves, however, and with adapted tactics by the Allies, Kamikazes became less and less effectivenote The first few attacks was wildly successful because Allied interceptors ignored planes that headed into a dive, as they expected the pilot of those planes to pull up at the last second. At the time the only suicide attacks were made by crippled planes. where the pilots were certain to die. They never expected that the Japanese units would intentionally try to ram a ship with a functional plane.
Hitler gave orders amounting to no retreat and no surrender to Army Group North, Center, A, B, and North Africa - ordering them all to fight to the last man. A common interpretation is that the apparent success of 'no retreat' in the winter of '41-42 - in the face of an over-ambitious Soviet counter-offensive that failed to encircle and annihilate Army Group Center due to command-inexperience and weak logistics - he became convinced that German troops were superior (man-for-man) to their Soviet counterparts and needed only the moral courage to keep fighting for them to prevail. At no point did he ever seem to appreciate the importance of mobile reserves and operational/campaign-level withdrawals to a successful strategic defense-in-depth - the Wehrmacht basically had nothing of the former left after the winter campaigns of '43-44, which annihilated the country's stock of experienced Panzer-crews, and he increasingly forbade the latter and began routinely firing Generals who refused to follow those orders - even the most talented and indispensable of them, such as Manstein and Runstedt.
In fact, this mentality was one of many reasons why the Germans lost the Battle of Stalingrad and, later, the entire Eastern Front of the European Theater.
Demetrios the Besieger would throw his men at the walls of enemy cities, not out of necessity, but out of anger or thirst for glory. When his own son pointed out how his men were dying for nothing, Demetrios lashed out at him, saying "Why so distraught? Are rations due from you to the dead?"
An attitude similar to this served the Romans well during their expansion. While they were perhaps not as callous about it as many other examples of this trope, they were willing and able to sustain casualties that would cripple any rival state. It didn't work so well against the Germanic tribes, though.
The Roman reaction to the disastrous battle of Cannae, the bloodiest day in Roman history to that point, with the virtually the entire Roman army annihilated? Raise another army and outlaw peace.
Interestingly, Hannibal, the winner of Cannae, knewit, and his entire strategy in theSecond Punic Warwas a well-thought attempt at working around this: knowing that the Romans' numerical superiority mostly came from the troops provided by their allies in Italy, he invaded Italy with a small but well-trained and magnificently led army and started inflicting crushing defeats after crushing defeats in the attempt to scare and impress the Italian population in defecting to his side, thus stealing away Rome's numerical superiority. While partially effective, this strategy didn't cause enough defections, to the point that, right after Cannae, the Romans could effectively keep five armies in the field: one facing Hannibal and launching raids to slowly destroy his army, one in Northern Italy facing his Gaulish allies, one in Spain to attack Hannibal's base of operation, one in the Balkans to face the Macedons (who had entered the war because, after Cannae, they had figured the Romans were too weak to defend their allies in Greece), and the survivors of Cannaedestroying the Sicilian cities that had defected to Hannibal. His situation only grew worse from that: the Carthaginians managed to destroy the army deployed in Spain, but by that point Hannibal's allies in Sicily had been destroyed or cowed into defecting back to Rome, the Gauls were broken as an effective fighting force and the Macedons had realized what was happening and sued for peace, meaning the survivors of Cannae could go to Spain and finish the job, the army of Northern Italy could pick off the Carthaginian troops that had escaped Spain and were trying to join Hannibal, and the army of the Balkans had started picking off Hannibal's allies in Southern Italy. Then the survivors of Cannae raised reinforcements in Spain and Sicily and invaded Africa, where they successfully stole Carthage's main ally.
Even before Hannibal, the Romans were so well-versed in manouver they could pull this on armies that outnumbered them: their frontline and rear-guard troops would switch position mid-battle, allowing their soldiers to stay relatively fresh while the enemy grew tired and felt like the Romans were outnumbering them until they either broke and were massacred during the escape (because the Romans were still fresher and would catch up to them) or were all chopped down in battle.
During their civil wars, this bit them back in the ass: as both sides would pull this, unless one of the commanders was significantly better or got lucky the armies would suffer grevious losses, resulting in a greater weakening of the Roman military than it would be for other armies.
At the Battle of Crecy in 1346, the French king Philip VI opened the battle by deploying Genoese mercenary crossbowmen and ordered them to begin firing on the English encamped at the top of the hill. The Genoese commander informed Philip that his troops were very fatigued from marching through rain and mud, did not have their pavises (anti-arrow shields) and that their bowstrings were wet from rain, which reduced their range. Philip insisted that they attack anyway which predictably ended with a catastrophe against the fast-firing English archers. Annoyed that his mercenaries had the audacity to die because of his idiotic order, Philip compounded his stupidity and brutality by ordereding his cavalry to charge through them to get to the English. The French knights deliberately chopped their way through their own crossbowmen to try and attack the English.
RevolutionaryFrance, according to historian Eugen Weber, was the first Western power to recruit conscripts in large numbers. The traditional file of well-trained soldiers went out in favor of massive columns of ill-trained soldiers, and French generals did not hesitate to throw them at the enemy under heavy fire, beginning what Weber called "The Gun Fodder Era." When you have a whole country of potential conscripts as your reserves, you can afford to lose many more soldiers than those that have to pay a professional army.
From the same era, one way Napoleon Bonaparte earned the ire of his fellow commanders prior to his declaring himself Emperor was because he was known to brag about the number of men he could lose in a single battle and still win it.
During the battle of Guilford Courthouse during the American Revolution, Lord Cornwallis's forces were on the verge of a devastating defeat. Out of desperation, he ordered his remaining artillery to fire grapeshot into the mass of men on the plain, regular and rebel alike. The rebels were forced back, but at a staggering cost to Cornwallis's troops.
In the US Civil War, Union General Grant was accused of this, being given the appellation "Butcher" Grant by some on the Union side after his high-casualty battles in Virginia. But he didn't spend his men needlessly (and deeply mourned the battle of Cold Harbour, the one high-casualty battle that was genuinely pointless), and was distinguished from previous Union generals by advancing after high-casualty battles rather than retreating, something which made the men happy because they could see they were actually making progress.
A lot of that was because he was lined up against Lee. In the West he could fairly often outmanoever his opponents.
It was more that he was fighting in the Eastern Theater, where there simply wasn't space to maneuver or to bring the Union's superior numbers to bear. In the West, there was such space.
Some WWI commanders would shoot those attempting to retreat without orders, or who refused to go over the trenches. It was a sort of preemptive punishment for treason. Although the number of men so shot is grossly overexaggerated, there were men who were under two suspended sentences of death for desertion or sleeping at their posts.
The point of the WWI strategy of attrition warfare was "we have more reserves than them!"
General Charles Mangin, a French division commander and Nivelle's right-hand man, is alleged to have given the following pep talk just before an attack:
"Gentlemen, we attack tomorrow. The first wave will be killed. The second also. And the third. A few men from the fourth will reach their objective. The fifth wave will capture the position. Thank you, gentlemen."
Despite going down in history as a butcher, he was one of the few generals of the era who would sometimes lead from the frontlines rather than miles behind. Not that it did the poilus much good.
Nivelle himself left quite an inheritance on France itself. The French word for the verb "to level" being... "niveler". With the understanding that his own troops were on the receiving end too.
Luigi Cadorna's strategy for the Italian army was based on this: knowing that his army was underequipped but most of the Austro-Hungarian forces were tied up fighting the Russians, he launched assault after pointless assault on the Isonzo to drain the enemy reserves while Italy's industry produced enough guns to properly equip his troops. Eventually he succeeded in draining the Austro-Hungarian reserves, but before he could break through the Russians collapsed and the newly freed enemy forces were redeployed to Italy with some German reinforcements, resulting in the catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Caporetto. In the end he was sacked but still somewhat succeeded, as the Austro-Hungarians still had no reserves left while Italy could use their last reserves to fill the losses of the battle and then some, now led well by Cadorna's replacement Armando Diaz properly equipped, with Italy's shortage of machine guns filled in large part by American and French supplies.
The official policy of Egypt in the War of Attrition 1967-1970, after they lost the Six Day War. As said by President Gamal Abdel Nasser:
"If the enemy succeeds in inflicting fifty-thousand casualties in this campaign, we can go on fighting nevertheless, because we have manpower reserves. If we succeed in inflicting ten-thousand casualties, he will unavoidably find himself compelled to stop fighting, because he has no manpower reserves."
During the First Gulf War, the USA's one-time (Cold-War) Ally Generalissimo Saddam Hussein believed that a lesson from the Vietnam War was that the USA (who formed the backbone of the U.N. taskforce to force him back from The Kingdom Of Kuwait) wouldn't support a war that would cost them 10,000 casualites. He, meanwhile had hundreds of thousands to spare and none of his subjects could protest the attrition. For one thing he thought that The U.N. would obey the letter of international law and seek only engage him in Kuwait (they attacked Iraqi itself, outflanking his forces and trapping them in Kuwait). For another, he seems to have forgotten the basics of force multipliers - i.e. his troops were catastrophically outmatched, so the enemy could be expected to take minimal losses (the greater the enemy's advantage, the fewer their losses). Thus, while The U.N. killed some 30k Iraqi troops they only lost 392 people.
In nature, reproductive strategies are split between animals that have a small number of young and raise them carefully, and ones that have lots of young (or, typically, lay lots of eggs) and don't care for them at all, trusting that there are enough that some will survive. The latter strategy is a lot less energy-intensive and is generally used by more basic and short-lived species, while the former is particularly common among some birds and nearly all the larger mammals. Some kinds of rodents have and raise frequent large litters, leading to exponential population growth over a very short time if conditions are favorable.
The human body is like this. It creates millions of white blood cells to fight infections and continues to create them until the infection is defeated. It works most of the time, except against diseases that attack the immune system itself or autoimmune disorders (when they go nuts and attack the tissues they're supposed to defend).