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Defensive Feint Trap

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"If your attack is going well, you have walked into an ambush."
Murphy's Laws of Combat

An opponent lures their enemy into a trap by feigning either retreat or weakness. Once the attacker has moved into position, or spent most of their energy/ammo attacking, the defender turns the tables by going all out, using Geo Effects, or calling their allies in ambush.

This can be done by either heroes or villains, though heroes tend to consider such tactics "dishonorable". When done to a hero, the trap's fatality depends on the hero's level of Plot Armor, but will usually give them at least a good run for their money.

Expect at least one ally to say "This is too easy", and later yell, "No, stop! It's A Trap!" and get either ignored by the hero or heard too late. This can also take the form of an enemy enticing their attacker into "winning" a Pyrrhic Victory before they realize what just happened.

This tactic, although it sounds splendid, is hard to pull off in Real Life because your own men don't know it is a trap; they only know that there are a lot of men with sharp metal objects and/or firearms pointed at their backs. An army has to be well disciplined, and perhaps practiced in this tactic beforehand, or a feigned retreat will turn into a real one.

If the strategy includes tricking a foe into chasing you, it may involve a Wronski Feint or Give Chase with Angry Natives.

One of The Oldest Tricks in the Book. Specifically, it's strategy #28 of The Thirty-Six Stratagems.

Compare Wounded Gazelle Gambit.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: Griffith uses this tactic to win the Battle of Doldrey and make the Kingdom of Midland victorious in their Hundred Year War against the Holy Tudor Empire.
    • Griffith arrays his mounted company, the Band of the Hawk, on the open plain in front of the castle with a river at their backs. General Boscogn and the Tudor Empire's Purple Rhino Knights, who greatly outnumber the Hawks and are more heavily armed, come out to meet them. Boscogn can't reconcile what he's heard about Griffith's brilliance with his seemingly insane plan, coming to do battle against Boscogn with inferior numbers in a place from which he won’t be able retreat if he loses. Griffith leads a vanguard of about 2,000 horse, or half his forces, in a direct attack on the Rhino Knights. Fierce fighting ensues, during which the Hawk's best fighter Guts engages Boscogn himself.
    • Suddenly, Griffith orders all his men to fall back. At this point Boscogn is thoroughly confused. He feels like it would be unwise to pursue without knowing what kind of trick Griffith is trying to pull, but then out comes Governor Gennon from inside the castle. Gennon is an old pervert who has been infatuated with Griffith ever since an encounter years ago, and he overrules Boscogn by commanding the troops to pursue the Hawks and capture Griffith unharmed.
    • This is exactly what Griffith was counting on. The cavalry battle has stirred up huge clouds of dust that make it nearly impossible for the sentries on the castle battlements to see what's going on, allowing the other half of Griffith's forces (led by Casca) to sneak around the battle and pour into the castle through its open gate. Meanwhile, the Hawks outside turn and re-engage the Rhino Knights. The battle is decided when, almost simultaneously, Guts beheads General Boscogn and Casca's force raises the Band of the Hawk flag over Doldrey. Tudor morale collapses, and Griffith is able to drive them from the field.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: The titular character advises this strategy if you find yourself in a pitched fight against multiple opponents: run away and then turn around to deal with each pursuer as they attempt to catch up to you (or otherwise find some way to create a one-on-one battle). The difference in speed between each enemy will result in them becoming slightly strung out if they all run at full speed to pursue. If you're a master of one-hit kills like Kenshin, you can quickly put on the brakes, kill the guy in front, and dash off again before the rest can surround you (the worst case scenario when you're outnumbered). Yahiko puts his own spin on this; he can't use the "take down one guy at a time as you run" strategy, but he can lure his pursuers into a narrow alleyway where they can't all rush him at once or draw their sheathed swords.
  • Naruto:
    • Shikamaru has used some form of this in nearly every one of his fights, doing things like feigning helplessness to lure an opponent closer. This is a major part of his battle strategy and he isn't afrid ot admit it.
      "How many times do I have to tell you? The first move is always a feint. It's the most basic thing to land a hit with the second move."
    • Sakura also used one of these to get rid of Sasori's Kazekage puppet. After getting nicked by one of his Poisoned Weapons she secretly takes one of the antidotes, which Sasori didn't know she had, while hiding behind said (large) weapon and destroyed the Kazekage puppet when it went in for the Coup de Grâce.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • Variant when the Anti-Spiral forces fall easily to Team Dai-Gurren... up until the Anti-Spiral decides to pull the rug. At that point the cannon fodder Anti-Spiral machines become Demonic Spiders, outgunning and outmaneuvering the now-stunned Team Dai-Gurren; only a handful survive the counterattack but they survive to rip the Anti-Spiral a new one.
    • This happens earlier in the series when Simon seems to be running from a fight like he did in the second episode. Team Dai-Gurren starts yelling at Kamina (who's riding in the same Humongous Mecha as him) to stop him, but Kamina just sits tight and trusts his judgement. Sure enough, Simon ends up luring the enemy to a cliff edge and destroys it, sending the enemy toppling over it.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: The Atlantic Federation faction of Earth Alliance pull one of these, leaving minimal forces belonging to the Eurasian Federation at Alaska at the Alaska base while most of the ZAFT forces stage an attack on it. They wait until ZAFT has nearly taken the entire base, then set off the Cyclops system hidden underground, blowing the base and 80% of ZAFT's fighting force to kingdom come with the bonus of ensuring the Eurasians no longer have the capability to challenge Atlantic Federation dominance in the Earth Alliance.
  • In Code Geass R2, Zero uses this strategy against the Eunuchs, with a twist: said help comes in the form of a citizen population enraged by the Engineered Public Confession the former had set up, with the latter openly admitting to the Empress Tianzi being disposable. He also tries it against Schneizel, but Schneizel doesn't take the bait.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Yusuke Urameshi and Kazuma Kuwabara ran away once from a very fast and invisible foe. They cornered themselves into a corridor, then, when the enemy came for the kill, Kuwabara, who could sense his presence but not pinpoint him, told Yusuke to attack and Yu shot a burst of his Shot Gun. In the narrow corridor, the enemy wasn't able to avoid the shots and was promptly defeated.
  • A very common tactic in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, especially by the FPA. Yang Wenli is especially famous for this. There is actually a battle in the series where an enemy commander — upon seeing Yang's fleet fall back and fearing a trap — is tempted to order a retreat right away.
  • Ranma ½:
    • It is a big part of the Hiryu Shoten Ha: the technique is set up by leading the opponent into the center of a spiral, letting them vent a "hot" Battle Aura with their attacks while the user remains cool and defensive. Then, at the nexus, the user delivers a single spinning uppercut that, without necessarily connecting, nevertheless causes a temperature clash that generates a wind blast anywhere from "toss the foe off their feet" to "create a massive tornado that ravages the vicinity for several minutes." Unfortunately, most people who have been hit with the technique recognize the defensive spiral dance almost instantly and go into defensive mode themselves.
    • Also, this was Pantyhose Taro's primary strategy during the Water Citadel fight: instead of engaging enemies directly, he ran from them and directed them into water traps that would trigger their relatively harmless cursed forms. When he tricked Ranma into turning into a girl this way, thus revealing how the entire battleground was rigged with high-pressure water, he finally pushed the offensive (being much faster and taller than she was) while taunting her with using the water on himself (and therefore assuming his gigantic, nigh-unbeatable monster form). By the time she finally landed a hit on him, all she accomplished was smash him into a wall, which broke and released a torrent of water upon him.
  • Girls und Panzer revels in this, as it is all about the "sport" of tank combat. Defensive Feint Traps figure in every battle in the national tournament, sometimes from both sides.
  • In part 1 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Jonathan lures Dio to the third floor of his burning mansion to give the fire time to spread and so that he can drop Dio into the fire from the top floor.
  • Completely subverted in the second series of Tekken Chinmi. Chinmi, who is the master of many Kung-fu arts and have done the same gambit many times, tried to lure a pursuing force into a narrow one person-wide pathway to try defeating them one by one. The pursuers, apparently an elite force of warriors, starts wallrunning to charge him all at once regardless.
  • Works out spectacularly in Desert Punk for Kanta Mizuno, who, in his own words, knows when it's time to run like a little bitch. He proceeds to do just that and lures an entire contingent of enemies into a derelict, dead-end building...rigged with tripwire grenades.
    Raider: Wait! That's a...ooh, shit.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Shiro finds his Ez-8 out of ammo during his showdown with Norris' Gouf Custom. As Shiro tries to reach for an extra magazine, Norris takes aim with the Gouf's triple-barreled machine gun, which is mounted on the Gouf's left arm (Shiro's right), causing him to run in the opposite direction. Norris quickly raises the other arm instead and fires its magnetic line, catching and tearing away Shiro's shield and disabling the Ez-8's arm.
  • In Attack on Titan, after getting severely cut up by Captain Levi, the Female Titan collapses against a tree and slumps her head forward. This exposes the nape of her neck, the weak point of all titans. Mikasa goes for the opening, which is exactly what the Female Titan was expecting her to do. Levi gets injured saving Mikasa and then has to sit out a major battle.
  • Ayakashi Triangle: In a partially comedic example, Matsuri runs away from a bathroom ambush while putting his underwear back on. Once the assailant turns the corner following after, he's greeted by Matsuri in the middle of an axe kick.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • This is practically the entire reason for the "instant" card type which, unlike other types, can be played at any time. Other card types with the ability "flash" can be played at any time as well. In addition, creatures, artifacts, and enchantments often have "activated abilities", played like instants, which one might discount. All of this can be played twice during combat, or can be played in response to something else, the responses following the LIFO rule. And as of Zendikar, there's a new subtype of instants called traps, which are a lot cheaper if your opponent did something during that turn. Yeah, Magic has a lot of room for these.
    • The prevalence of such cards and strategies which can turn an apparent lead or advantage around in an instant usually cause experienced players to pretty much expect that the other player may pull this, to the point where any lead or impending victory usually means little until the game is actually won.
  • As above many trap cards in Yu-Gi-Oh! work like this, in particular, the ones that can only be activated in response to an attack.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: At one point, Etta Candy leads her Holliday Girls into an outnumbered fight with some Nazis then has her girls flee past a waiting ambush led by Steve Trevor and turn and rejoin the fight once the USAAF has the Nazis cut off from escape.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one series of Peanuts comics, Peppermint Patty and Marcie are caddying for two lady golfers who keep arguing about the score. Eventually, the argument turns violent:
    Peppermint Patty: Look! Mrs. Nelson is climbing the tree! She's climbing the tree to get away from Mrs. Bartley. [{{beat panel with Oh, Crap! expression from both her and Marcie] Oh, I was wrong. She climbed the tree so she can jump on her.

    Fan Works 
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Bakugou runs into Jirou alone during combat training. Eager to get the small fry out of the way before going after Izuku, he charges after her, becoming particularly determined after she manages to uppercut him hard enough to make him bite his tongue and bleed. During his pursuit, she leads him to a stairwell and he's about to pounce on her when Izuku reveals that he'd been hiding underneath the stairs and promptly webs Bakugou to a wall. They repeat the stunt later with an even more pissed off Bakugou, only with Jirou willing to let herself get captured so Izuku can finally knock out Bakugou with a Venom Strike.
  • Black Crayons series: In one of the installments, titled A Child's Innocence, Megatron feigns not being in top condition to lull his everyone around him to make them underestimate him should the time come for him to really fight. Annabelle inadvertently convinces him that this backfired when she assumes that Sentinel and Dylan are behind the events in Chicago leading the Decepticon leader to believe he is no longer seen as a credible threat. This leads to Megatron turning on Sentinel.
  • In CD-I Super Guns Fight, the evil team uses this against the good team following their crushing defeat in their first major battle. Iron Knuckle gets the Good Team's attention and tricks them into following him into a canyon. Ganon then activates the mines and most of the good team are blown bits, including their leader Fari. The evil team then reveal themselves and shoot the three survivors.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, during the Equestrian Civil War, Luna attempts this twice with her Nightmare forces. The first time was meant to completely wipe out Celestia's forces in the Battle of Canterlot, allowing them to take an easy victory at first, then bringing in forces three times their size in an attempt to wipe the city off the map. After that attempt's failure and the war's turning point, she attempts this again in a Last Stand, in which she gathered as many forces as she could in the Battle of the Everfree Plains, and attempts to encircle and ambush the enemy forces by relying on Geo Effects and an alliance with the monsters. She would have succeeded this time, if it wasn't for the last minute arrival of The Cavalry.
  • In Hybrid Theory, Rip Van Winkle discards all of her soul-bonded bullets except for one she leaves levitating in the center mass of the phased out Lotus Infinite, primed to explode the assassin if she solidifies in order to take advantage of the vampire's apparent moment of weakness.
  • The Night Unfurls: Attempted during the battle at the Black Fortress, where the dark elf spear line parted as if to make way for the Black Dogs to enter, only for a giant fireball to wipe out a sizeable portion of the Black Dog army. The tactic would've worked splendidly had the Hunter not sensed the danger miles away and bellowed the men behind him to move away. The Hunter, on the other hand, quickly dove under it, and rushed towards the mage responsible, killing her. From this point, any advantage the forces of the Dark Queen had due to said tactic is lost in an instant.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played straight twice in a row in Master and Commander. First, Aubrey tries to lure in the French ship in by having his naval sloop repainted and rebranded, and posing as a damaged whaling ship. The French naturally take the bait and try to haul them in as a prize, and the British raise their colors and obliterate the French privateer's main mast once they're right next to them, rake the deck from behind after the French ship is crippled, then board them. However, they find most of the French crew lying dead and dying on the upper deck and prepare to call it a day... But then the French jump at them. In the end the second instance wasn't enough; Aburey and his crew ultimately are victorious since they were still prepared for a vicious boarding fight.
  • The Patriot has the American Revolutionary army using its reputation of being composed of untrained farmers and such to its advantage. In one battle, they do a volley, and then retreat, luring the contemptuous British forces into a pursuit... which gets the army, which has fled behind a hill only to set up again, a few free volleys.
  • Star Wars:
    • Although it probably was a coincidence, done to Han Solo in A New Hope, when chasing a Stormtrooper down a hallway and running into a whole legion of them... hilariously prompting a hasty retreat of his own.
    • Return of the Jedi:
      • The attack on the second Death Star. The Rebels attacked because they believed the Emperor's Defensive Feint Trap — that the station was incomplete and vulnerable. Instead, not only was the station fully operational, but the arriving Rebels were ambushed by the Imperial fleet behind Endor.
      • It's also done to a stormtrooper by the rebels on Endor; Han walks up to the guard, taps him on the shoulder, and runs around the corner. The guard follows, into a pack of rebels.
      • After that, C-3PO lures a squad of stormtroopers who went in to capture them, then the Ewoks ambushed them from behind.
      • Lastly, the Rebels trick the bunker into opening its doors with a false transmission claiming that they were retreating. Immediately after the bunker sends reinforcements to pursue, said reinforcements are surrounded by Ewoks and a smirking, shrugging Han.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Kirk attempts to pull this off. After the Enterprise is fired upon, he has it back away as if it had sensed the Bird of Prey. This buys Kirk some time, as the Big Bad suspects that the Enterprise has a way of tracking his thought-to-be-untrackable ship.
  • In The Avengers, Loki pulls this off by letting himself be captured, thereby leading his forces to the good guys' base because of the homing beacon in his staff.
  • Under Siege. After Ryback kills several of his men, Stranix gives the order "Do not pursue hostile parties into unsecured areas.". Later in the movie as Ryback is retreating Strannix orders "Do not pursue that man!". His men disobey him and are blown up by a grenade Booby Trap Ryback left behind.
  • In Waterloo as in real life, Wellington faked a retreat behind a hill. Behind the hill, his army simply changed formation and waited for the ill-fated French charge.
  • In Sin City John Hartigan acts as if he is too weak to stand, falling to his knees so that the Big Bad will hover over him, giving him an opportunity to get stabbed.
  • In Braveheart English troops chase 5 lone Scotsmen into an apparent dead end before noticing the much larger Scottish force waiting on the cliff tops.
  • Galaxy Quest: In the opening scene, Commander Taggart suspects something fishy when the enemy forces retreat too easily. He turns out to be right.
  • In Nothing but Trouble, when Sheriff Dennis Valkenheiser pulls over a car full of drugged-out yuppies, one of them pulls a pistol on him. Dennis begins simpering and begging for his life, before swatting the pistol out of the yuppie's hand with a much larger submachine gun.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the climactic tumble into the Reichenbach Falls starts off right after Holmes details how he fleeced Moriarty of all his ill-begotten war fortunes while trouncing him in Blitz Chess with a Surprise Checkmate. Holmes had previously been savagely tortured by Moriarty by means of a meat hook through the shoulder. Holmes baits the now furious Moriarty (who just threatened to kill Watson and his newlywed wife) with a Sherlock Scan battle, where the inevitable conclusion (given Holmes's hobbling injury) results in Moriarty victorious and Holmes tossed over the ledge. Except it was a defensive feint trap, and Holmes's plan ultimately was a Heroic Sacrifice taking them both over the edge into the Reichenbach Falls as per the Sherlock Holmes mythos.
  • Top Gun: The overly aggressive Maverick fixates on scoring a kill on Viper, the lead instructor at Top Gun. He goes in hard, chasing after Viper. Viper, artfully baits Maverick and evades him - until fellow instructor Jester sneaks up on Maverick’s six and “Bingo! Maverick’s dead! You’re outta here, kid!” Good thing, this was a training mission, not actual combat.


  • A Brother's Price, Jerin pulls this on some toddlers with whom he's playing toy soldiers. The oldest sister is very angry, but he manages to convince her that it is not cheating if you could do it with a real army.
  • Jerry Pournelle's King David's Spaceship. The barbarians of the planet Makassar lure the Temple guard knights into pursuing them by retreating, then turn and slaughter them.
  • This happens quite a bit in Romance of the Three Kingdoms; Zhuge Liang was such a master of such traps that the one time his rival came across him sitting on top of a small fort-city playing calming music, gates wide open, and the streets empty except for a few janitors, the rival decided to back off in case of an ambush. (Turned out to be a Refuge in Audacity — Zhuge Liang didn't have the forces for a confrontation, so an attack really would have worked.)
  • Used more than once in David Weber's Safehold during Siddarmark war against Church forces. Siddarmarkian pikeman has such a Badass Army opinion that the sheer sight of soldiers dropping their pikes and running is enough for other armies to forget carefullness. Then the "retreating" army leads them into the real trap. The fact that most of Church commanders are Too Dumb to Live helps, too — so far it was not employed against any really smart commanders.
  • In the Dragonlance novels during the siege of the High Clerist's Tower during the War of the Lance the Draconians pulled this off on the overconfident Solamnic forces.
    • It doesn't help that the commander of the Solamnic Knights, was just a little bit crazy over having been beaten out for the position of Grand Master of the Knighthood. He decided to launch an attack away from the Tower's defenses in a case of Suicidal Overconfidence, hoping that a stunning rout would sway popular opinion back in his favor. And the garrison, bound to Honor Before Reason as they were, were duty-bound to follow, leaving only the tiny force of Knights of the Crown, who were under the command of Sturm Brightblade, who ordered them to remain behind, to defend the Tower.
    • Laurana, the Golden General, who takes command of the Solamnic forces after the High Clerist's Tower, returns the favor at the Battle of Margaard Ford. When faced with a massive enemy army that greatly outnumbers her own, she has her silver dragons create an ice dam to block the Vingaard River. Her ground forces then appear to flee in the face of the overwhelming Dragonarmy force. This causes the enemy army to heedlessly enter the now dry river bed in pursuit of her seemingly routed troops. Laurana then has her gold dragons melt the ice dam, creating a massive tidal wave that annihilates the entire Dragonarmy force without her forces taking any losses.
  • Conqueror: Jochi does this to a group of Russian knights at the start of Bones of the Hills. This is subverted towards the end of the book when Kachiun tries this against Jelaudin. However, since Jelaudin is Genghis Khan's Worthy Opponent, he understands Mongol tactics and realises what they are trying. He thus quickly orders his men to stop their pursuit, forcing the Mongols (see Real Life, below) to deal with the shame of having actually retreated.
  • Mars Attacks: The Mongols are using the alien invasion and destabilization of civilization to get their own back.
  • The Warcraft's The War of the Ancients trilogy has the invading demon army use this tactic. Several times. And the overzealous army commander falls for it. Every time.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • In the the 5th book, General Mat has his pikemen encounter a large enemy force, attempt to run away, then set up an apparently hopeless defense when they are overtaken. As the enemy approaches without caution, expecting a Curb-Stomp Battle, that's when all the archers and cavalry pop out of hiding.
    • In the 11th book, General Mat uses a small group of mounted scouts to lure a legion of cavalry into a defensive position maned by crossbow men. Then, once they're committed, he hits the enemy from behind with his own cavalry. It's the only stand-up fight he offers during an incredibly successful guerrilla campaign, and he completely curb stomps the opposing force. It's also something of a False Flag Operation since he lures the enemy in by pretending to be a unit of Deathwatch Guards in the area—he's covering their withdrawal. Though he does fly his own banner in the end, subverting that as well.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Tywin Lannister fills one of his flanks with irregular troops, planning on the likelihood that they'll break and his stronger flank of knights can pin the enemy against a river. He even sticks his unwanted son Tyrion in there, probably hoping that he'll die in the fighting. The enemy's battle commander turns out to be too cautious to fall for the trick, and Tyrion's irregulars hold the flank anyway. Tywin still wins thanks to his superior numbers, just not decisively.
    • In the second book, Tyrion lets the enemy navy come in close, then he closes off the escape route before he proceeds to Kill It with Fire.
  • The primary modus operandi of Salma's New Mercers in Shadows of the Apt.
  • The Art of War: Sun Tzu made it clear of the importance of using the Feigned Retreat on enemies (and not falling for them yourself) through his book.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Happens more than once in the X-Wing Series, most notably at the start of Wraith Squadron. Talon Squadron follows a single wounded enemy fighter into a trap which kills everyone but Myn Donos.
    • Later used by Wedge himself in the New Jedi Order Enemy Lines duology. When the Vong stage a ground assault on his Borleias base, he instructs all his defenders to retreat at the same rate, reinforcing weakened areas while ordering the abandoning of more well defended positions. Then, once the Vong have been lured into open ground, the orbiting Star Destroyers open fire...
  • The Dresden Files
    • A small-scale version in Dead Beat. Warden Captain Luccio is fighting the Corpsetaker sword-to-sword, and winning handily—in fact, she drives her back into an alley, runs the Corpsetaker through and leaves her for dead. Harry figures out shortly afterward that Corpsetaker threw the fight and let Luccio run her through, then switched bodies with her.
    • Harry pulls two himself in Skin Game
      • First, for much of the book, Harry feigns ignorance to one of Nicodemus' greatest weapons his fallen angel partner Anduriel can listen in through anything that casts a shadow. Harry further pretends to be weak with only one person on the heist team who is his ally, but in fact had gotten to one mercenary before Nicodemus could and paid him to pretend to not be Harry's ally on the mission until it was time to take down Nicodemus' plans.
      • Then against Lasciel-possessed Hannah Ascher. After redirecting two attacks, he suddenly drops on his knee, seemingly weakened, and raises his shield, prompting his enemy into a third attack, as they both knew his shield won't last long. It, however, serves two different purposes: to distract Hannah from that Harry used her own Hellfire surge to melt the ceiling directly above her, and to protect against the resulting lava and hot rocks shower which buried both Hannah and Lasciel's coin.
  • Gordon R. Dickson's Tactics of Mistake: The title comes from the hero's tactical doctrine, which calls for a series of feints that gradually draw the enemy into an untenable position, at which point he attacks, and demolishes them.
  • NATO forces use this against a Soviet advance in Red Storm Rising. It works, but the Soviets have enough firepower to plow through later anyway.
  • The MacKenzies use this in the Emberverse against a charge of PPA knights, who are lured into the attack by the illusion that there are fewer archers than in truth there are. The incompetent temporary leader has them take 75% losses in the charge, then has the nerve to claim victory because the MacKenzies left afterward. His commanding officer doesn't take it well.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Drauglir crushes Nobel's numerically superior army with one of these in The Baron of Maleperduys.
    • Faelas lures Reynard into one of these in Defender of the Crown. Unfortunately, Reynard saw it coming and he ends up riding into one himself.
  • In the World War series, the early atom bombs are too heavy to air-drop, and in any case, the Lizard anti-aircraft capabilities make using aircraft anywhere near the front lines a bad idea. So how do you deliver one? Hide it in a building, have the army get "driven back" a few miles, and set it off.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Galad does this in a Trial by Combat against Eamon Valda. He pretends to be more tired than he really is, even taking some cuts that he could have blocked, so that when the other man's guard is down, he attacks so swiftly that it's unexpected.
  • A variant in The Malloreon — during a desert battle, the Murgos flee from the Malloreon army, luring them into pursuit, and leaving the Malloreon wagon train (with all their water supplies) unguarded. Then a Murgo cavalry unit swoops in and chops up every single water barrel before the Malloreons can reverse, and the "fleeing" Murgos settle into prepared positions for some archery practice as well.
  • In Elite, the second book of Mercedes Lackey's Hunter series, main character Joy is used as bait to lure monsters into ambushes more than once.
  • Martín Fierro: This is a Narrative Poem about Martin Fierro, a Gaucho who is Press-Ganged into Conscription trying to Settling the Frontier. At song III, the Conscripted Gauchos, without any military training, chase for the Indians after yet another of their incursions on the Frontier. The Gauchos always chase the Indians, who have better horses and always escape. Only this time, the Indians were hiding behind some hill and they come back and charge against the Gauchos. Cue a Curb-Stomp Battle where the Gauchos end literally Chased by Angry Natives. The irony here is that the Indians applied military tactics better than the Gauchos!
  • The Dark Elf Trilogy: This is Drizzt's assumption in his first grand melee; a fellow student attacks with tactics so rudimentary he assumes it's a ruse, feigning incompetence to put Drizzt off of his guard. However, he quickly realizes that's not the case, and he really is significantly more skilled than his peers.
  • Used in the Dutch young-adult trilogy about the The Hundred Years War from Thea Beckman by the real world Bertrand du Guesclin. Faced with an army on an easily defendable hill, Bertrand's army begins its advance, but panics and routs immediately as the first arrows land and pile up as they try to flee across the bridge behind them. The enemy army can't resist the temptation to wipe out the disorganized mess below them and charge down, whereupon Bertrand's army immediately reforms to have the battle right where he wanted, on the the level plain below the hill.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Dark Angel, Max and a small band of transgenics turn an escape plan into this in order to prevent police capture. (Naturally, they allow the police to retreat from the ambush afterwards.)
  • John Sheridan of Babylon 5 loved to do this:
    • He used a variation during the Earth/Minbari war gaining him fame/infamy as being the only commander to destroy a Minbari ship in the war. His ship was in fact crippled, and the distress call was very real. The Minbari were known to leave no survivors and if a ship broadcasted a distress call for medical and technological assistance, they would come back to kill the survivors. He just seeded the area with nuclear mines before sending it, so the effect wound up being the same.
    • The first shadow-ship he killed, he lured near a jump gate near a derelict planet, then touched off his own White Star's jump engines inside the existing hyperspace window, making this Weaponized Exhaust as well when the two overlapping hyperspace windows explosively interfered with each other.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - "Favor the Bold": The Defiant emits a fake distress call and feigns being disabled to lure Dominion vessels so that a cloaked Klingon vessel can destroy them. Since the Defiant is also fitted with a (Romulan-loaned) cloaking device, sometimes the two ships switch roles.
  • In Community episode Modern Warfare the Chess Club ambushes people by having one member step into a room then immediately run out, where three more wait outside the door. Right before they fall into the trap, Jeff realizes that "He's a pawn..."
  • Firefly: Mal wins the duel in "Shindig", while on his back and genuinely injured. What he feigns is giving up the fight... and when his opponent swaggers up to gloat, presenting an easy target, Mal strikes.
  • In Power Rangers Wild Force, Jindrax and his brother Juggelo, having endured a decisive attack from the Blue and Yellow Rangers, seemingly run away. Blue and Yellow follow, only to be led to the place where their young friend Kite is being held prisoner by a squad of Putrids.
  • Leverage: In "The Radio Job," Elliott sells the idea that he's a city cop trapped in the federal patent office with terrorists by luring the mooks chasing him onto a skybridge, and letting them beat him up in full view of the swarm of law enforcement surrounding the building. He then staggers back into a windowless hallway, stands up straight, smiles, and beckons for the mooks to follow. Once the real cops can't see them, he beats the mooks senseless for the second time in the episode.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Conquest, Shao Khan lets Raiden beat the shit out him in order to trick him into entering Outworld and losing his advantage.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • This is how Kendra dies in "Becoming Part 1" - Drusilla feigns being stunned by a kick in order to draw Kendra close enough to grab her, allowing Dru to mesmerise her and slit her throat.
    • Later used by Buffy herself in "Showtime". She, Willow and Xander allow the Ubervamp to breach the defenses of the Summers home and 'chase them away' in order to lure it to a construction site, where Buffy decapitates it with barbed wire. Note that, in this case, the trap isn't about making the kill easier (the barbed wire is an Improvised Weapon), but about setting up an arena suitable for the real plan - killing the Ubervamp spectacularly enough to inspire and motivate the Potentials.
    • Buffy also uses this as a standard tactic against ordinary vampires and demons; letting them chase her into an area with no witnesses, faking a Twisted Ankle, then killing them. She lampshades this in "Earshot", only to be ambushed by a second demon, implying they were trying the same trick on her.
  • Napoléon: Napoleon wins the Battle of Austerlitz by ordering a retreat in order to lure in the enemy forces. His Marshals object that it is too obvious a strategy, which Napoleon states will be the reason it will work: they won't expect it.

  • The Sabaton song The Art of War describes this tactic:
    I will run, they will hunt me in vain
    I will hide, they'll be searching
    I'll regroup, feign retreat they'll pursue
    Coup de grace I will win but never fight

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Book of Joshua in The Bible describes how the Israelites used this tactic to capture the city of Ai. Joshua divided his army into two groups, sending one of them under the cover of night to lay an ambush west of the city, while the main force approached from the east. When the army of Ai rushed out to attack them, the Israelites retreated, luring the enemy soldiers out of the city so that the troops lying in wait could rush in and set fire to the city — whereupon the retreating soldiers turned to the offense, trapping the enemy in a pincer movement. (This was made more convincing by the fact that the Israelites' previous attack on Ai had been a real retreat.)
  • Used extensively by the Nephites in The Book of Mormon, sending small warbands to lure much larger armies of Blood Knight enemies into abandoning fortified positions and giving chase. Even when their enemies started to wise up to the trick, the Nephites kept it going by varying their approach, such as using their main army as the lure and then circling around their pursuers at night to seize the city walls, or besieging armies that wouldn't take the bait.
  • The Aeneid: The Greeks could not breach the walls of Troy through conventional attacks, so Odysseus created a plan based on trickery. The Greek fleet would sail away, and "gifting" the Trojans with a wooden horse as a sign of their respect. King Priam ordered the horse taken into Troy, and once the partying turned into drunken sleeping, a team of Greeks hidden inside the horse slipped out and opened the gate. This is the origin behind the saying "beware Greeks bearing gifts" and the name for Trojan Viruses.
  • Arthurian Legend: This is how King Arthur won the Battle of Bedegraine; Arthur's French allies Ban of Benwick and Bors of Gaul concealed their armies in the forest to catch Lot and the other rebel kings by surprise, while Arthur's own forces faced them head on.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • One of Ric Flair's signature attacks is to get on his knees and beg for the opponent not to approach him, also while feigning back pain. As soon as the opponent walks up to him, he gets up and jabs them in the eye (alternatively he gives them a Groin Attack).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chess: This is a valid tactic to use against overly aggressive players, as pieces that become isolated from support are vulnerable.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, this tactic was used against the Tau Commander Farsight by Orks of all people, during the War of Dakka. Such tactics are generally anathema to the Orks, and it's mentioned that the plan would never have worked (or even been attempted) if the Warboss hadn't had a large number of Blood Axes (known for being "sneaky gitz") in his forces. Part of the reason this is so surprising is that one of the Tau's most famous strategies is in itself this, kauyon, the 'patient hunter'. Derived from an ancient Tau hunting technique, it essentially relies on a lure to draw the enemy into a prepared killing zone.
  • The Terrans did this to the Vilani fleet at the climax of the Intersteller Wars in Traveller.
  • This is the key weakness of frenzied troops in Warhammer - the general procedure goes: berserkers attack weak troops -> weak troops run away -> berserkers follow into the middle of a large number of heavily armed troops -> meat grinder.
  • This is how the Inner Sphere achieved its few early victories against The Clans during the Clan Invasion era of BattleTech. Since the Clans uniformly believed War Is Glorious and were all about Honor Before Reason, they disdained tactical maneuvers in favor of direct firefights. Once the Inner Sphere militaries reaslized this, they turned the tables on the Clans a few times, such as the Battle of Luthien, where a group of Smoke Jaguars chased fleeing 'Mechs into what they thought was a battalion of inferior Inner Sphere 'Mechs and began shooting everything they could at point blank range. The only problem with this was the fact that the 'Mechs they were shooting at were really multi-ton bombs made to look like 'Mechs...and that the space around the booby trapped 'Mechs had been liberally seeded with anti-Battlemech land mines. Kaboom.
  • In one Time of Judgment scenario from Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Black Spiral Dancers lure the Get of Fenris deep into subterranean tunnels by retreating from combat. Instead of recognizing the obvious trap, the Get pursue their prey deep into the earth, where they fall to the Wyrm.

    Video Games 
  • The entire strategy of "pulling" in video games — one person is the "puller" who gets the enemy's attention so the enemy will follow to a different area. This is done to fight one enemy (or a small group) at a time from a larger group of enemies, or (more rarely) to lure the enemy off of terrain favoring them and/or onto terrain favoring you. A variant, "kiting," can be done on particularly slow enemies, where the puller lures an enemy around and around, as the damage dealers whale on the enemy.
  • In multiplayer games where the enemies are human, and therefore too smart to simply chase anyone who walks up, attacks once, and then runs away, a genuine attempt must be made to appear weak or show that an ostensible plan has failed; This more difficult distinction is called "Baiting". MOBAs such as League of Legends or DOTA can have this as a key point of strategy. In a game where positioning is crucial, drawing an enemy even just a few virtual meters from safety with the promise of an easy kill on a healer can turn the tide of a teamfight, or even an entire match.
  • In 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds, two different endings require Guile Hero Lucy to lure the vampire into an ambush in an alley. Solo variations of the tactic involve her secretly arming herself.
  • If you hack a turret or camera in BioShock, this tactic can save you quite a bit of ammo. Or, in the case of camera, kill your enemies without ever lifting a finger (or being anywhere near the camera on the map) and plenty of non-hostile drones to catch and hack.
  • Diablo:
    • A typical tactic in hack-and-slash games such as Diablo is to make the enemy forces stretch themselves thin by retreating. It can also be used to lure mooks away from a boss (handy if he can resurrect them), in a cheap but entirely legal exploitation of AI limits.
    • Also, to change the terrain in your favor. A doorway was one of the more important locations you could have, allowed you to bash at the enemies one by one while being fairly safe and still able to withdraw if it goes bad, as opposed to be being in a corner.
    • In Diablo II, named monsters have a group of mook buddies that stick to them on an AI "leash." Getting mobbed is a very real danger in this game (each hit disables you for a set amount of time, leading to a Cycle of Hurting if there's a lot of things hitting you at once.) Thus, the pack of normally-laughable fiends who avert this trope tend to be more dangerous than the miniboss itself.
    • Diablo III: The Demon Hunter's Sentries are built for this; use up your Hatred resource to summon all your magically-automated crossbow turrets in one spot, then lure your enemies by Vaulting with your Discipline resource back and forth into your turret nest.
  • In Pokémon, there are a few moves that have the same practical effect. Payback works like this - if your opponent hits you before the move goes off, you do double damage with it. Avalanche does as well. Fairly obviously, so does Revenge. There are also combinations that involve setting up a Desperation Attack (Flail and Reversal) to effectively function like this.
  • In Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, enemy leaders and yarhi/espers/whatever will often do this in battles involving Summoning Gates and Soul Crystals. Naturally, the group that had had the command to 'attack' will continue to follow the command, and chase after them if not intercepted quickly. If they are not intercepted then the group will end up in a trap of ever-spawning leaders or yarhi/espers/whatever from the Summoning Gate/Soul Crystal, and either fight until they die or get very injured/die while they escape.
  • In Warcraft III, the alliance against the Burning Legion is simply intended to hold them off just long enough to set up a trap. Of course, given the odds they were facing, they weren't exactly letting them have it easy on purpose.
  • In the original Warcraft, this was a not uncommon tactic for a human playing the computer. The archaic UI made a coordinated advance difficult, but sending a bait unit to draw the computer into an attack on your carefully drawn-up defensive formation usually worked pretty well.
  • If you want to survive levels 1-3 in the Infinity Engine games (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, etc.), learning this tactic will be a godsend.
  • Often happens with Demomen or Engineers in Team Fortress 2. A Demoman will lay a stick bomb carpet somewhere, or an Engineer will put up a sentry, and then they'll go off and engage the enemy. If planned properly, they can simply retreat into the sticky bombs or the sentry and kill their opponent instantly.
    • This particular tactic appears explicitly at the end of ''Meet The Demoman," where the RED Demoman retreats from the charging BLU team... to lure them into a gigantic cluster of sticky bombs hidden just out of sight until it's too late. Cue Oh, Crap!, Stuff Blowing Up, and Ludicrous Gibs, in that order.
    • Scouts can also pull this off with a little practice: Run ahead of main force. Shoot enemy. Run back. Kill assist. Repeat.
    • Pyros, too. A common tactic when outgunned is to pretend to retreat and stop just around the next corner, flamethrower ready. Works best if the Pyro has managed to puff some flame at whoever is going to give chase before said chase starts.
    • A Spy with even a bare hint of height advantage can quickly turn a retreat into a Back Stab opportunity by jumping over the opponent. This is known as an airstab or stairstab, as usually the path of retreat is up a flight of stairs, and jumping right back down behind the now-victim.
    • Heavies can pull off a variant with the default loadout. Many Heavies tend to dispense with the shotgun in return for the health-restoring Sandvich, which unfortunately forces the Heavy in question to duck around a corner to relative safety due to being vulnerable for about four seconds as the Sandvich is heartily devoured. This trope comes in if a Heavy ducks around a corner as if to eat a Sandvich and is chased by an opponent hoping to attack during the vulnerability—only to find out that the Heavy does not have a Sandvich and is, in fact, about to blow off the opponent's head with the shotgun.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, this is basically the entire battle plan for Ostagar: Lure the darkspawn into charging the main force, ambush them from behind. We'll never know for sure if it would've worked, thanks to Loghain having other ideas. Survivors from the main force think it would have and consider the withdrawal a Cavalry Betrayal; Loghain and his soldiers insist, even years later, that the battle was so one-sided (the main force broke before the entire darkspawn horde was committed) that charging as planned would have been a pointless suicide.
  • In Dynasty Warriors, the best ways to kill Lu Bu are power-leveling, and using this tactic to get him to follow you into your main base, at which point, a number of allied officers, and *infinite* allied mooks will bear down on him. Of course, he's still Lu Bu.
  • Wolfenstein 3D featured a level where opening a door would cause an army of Nazis to come at you from all directions. A sound tactic here (and all around the game) was to retreat to an earlier (hidden) room and, as the enemies followed you, open on them with a machine gun since they're conveniently bunched up and bottlenecked at the entrance.
  • Warriors Orochi 2 has at least one instance of an enemy army pulling this on the player. Would be more convincing if the felled enemies didn't give the strategy away by taunting in their defeat messages, but you have to fall for it anyway in order for the battle to progress.
  • In Jade Empire, the Player Character end up doing this unintentionally. Your Magnificent Bastard Master deliberately built a weakness into your fighting style that only he can exploit. Other masters took notice of a peculiarity in your fighting style but dismissed it as an actual Defensive Feint Trap. At the climax of the game, the trap was used for its intended purpose.
  • In the Freelancer backstory, the GMG's main tactic during the 80 Years War was to lure the Rheinland ships into explosive gas pockets and other navigational hazards in the GMG's home nebulae.
  • Mogami Yoshiaki in Sengoku Basara has two moves, the first of which involves him standing idly while taunting, and the second falling to his knees and begging for forgiveness, only to attack with a Diagonal Cut the instant you touch him. Since it's impossible to defend and this will down your character for 10 seconds or more, it's best to just avoid him or use a ranged attack if you have one.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, this happened four years prior to the game at the first Battle of Hoover Dam. The NCR feigned retreat from the dam into the nearby Boulder City, sniping at the Legion commanders the whole way. Once they were in Boulder City proper, the NCR sprung the trap: they'd rigged enough explosives to level the town, and all the Legionnaires within it. And they did.
  • Thanks to Artificial Stupidity, it's possible to win battles without losing a single unit in Empire Earth. The AI will target only the attacking unit, so park your army close by, send an archer to fire a single arrow, then run it to the back. The AI's units will get slaughtered as they try to get at the archer. The most glaring example would have to be the Greek campaign, where Alexander the Great's army can basically win without a single loss.
  • This happens in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. In the second to the last chapter: Castle Guards, the player will encounter a battle that seems much too easy. It's just a few bucklers and some enemy fodder. One can rush in and quickly dispatch these enemies. One short lived celebration later, queue Mario pointing to new enemies. Then, a new, dire situation is revealed. Now the player is backed into a corner with little cover, their retreat cut off, surrounded by a garrison of beefy, well armed, well supported enemies in proper formation. And, once that battle is over? There's another one straight away with the Quirky Miniboss Squad.
  • In Danger By Design, Nancy defeats the villain simply by parrying one attack after another, until said villain (who's not much of a fighter) is too exhausted to continue.
  • A staple player tactic in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, where it's commonly known as the Overwatch trap. Make contact with an alien pack in terrain that favors the aliens, fall back and set troops the aliens can't see in Overwatch mode. Works especially well on the more aggressive and less intelligent aliens, but it's not foolproof. Smarter aliens either won't fall for it or will just grenade where they think you are, while your own troopers can mess it up if they've been attending the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy. And in the sequel, captains will invoke Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? and sacrifice an opportunity to get into cover for a full Alpha Strike on the bait who charged in alone. Of course, since you now have specialists that can stay in stealth until a precise meal of buckshot is needed, enemies may try to flank your main units only to accidentally run straight into the killzone of a shotgun specialist who is still in concealment mode.
  • An incredibly common tactic in Real-Time Strategy games, against either an AI opponent or someone who doesn't micromanage very effectively: send out a small group/lone unit, drag back a portion of the army (preferably through a choke point) into your waiting defensive line. Move said line forward if possible, lather, rinse, repeat. This is especially effective in games that have units whose effective range is longer than their actual sight into the Fog of War; Terran Siege Tanks and upgraded Tau railguns made this both tactically and visually satisfying.
  • In No More Heroes, Bad Girl may occasionally get on her knees and start crying. If one of her hands are still on her bat, it means that she'll counter with an insta-kill maneuver if you attack her in this state. If both her hands are off her bat however, it means she actually is having a psychotic breakdown and is vulnerable.
  • The first Modern Warfare game has an example of this pulled by al-Asad on American forces. Intel indicates al-Asad is holed up in the capital, US sends lots of troops to hunt him down. Turns out he's not there...but a nuclear device is. End result: 30,000 dead US soldiers and a furious General Shepherd.
    • And in Modern Warfare 3, during the battle of Berlin, Russian troops pull this, luring in a Delta Team and two Bundeswehr tanks then collapsing a freakin' building on top of them.
  • A quintessential part of normal gameplay in Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Dark Souls II. Failing to grasp this concept will lead to a player getting massacred, whereas proper use will put the odds at merely butchered (assuming the player is just starting out; more experienced players will be able to handle most enemies without much trouble).
  • Can sometimes happen in World of Warships by clever... or insane... carrier players. It's no great secret that the fighters a Carrier can launch can be a major annoyance to the opposing team at best, or a nightmare at worst, so it stands to reason that Carriers would be a major target. What then happens is that the second a Carrier is spotted, players willing to destroy them will focus everything they have on the Carrier in an attempt to sink it, thus enabling the Carriers own team-mates to move in, and pick off the other team while they're distracted.
    • It should be noted that only a few Carrier classes are actually capable of pulling this off. The Independence Class for example are based on the Cleveland Class cruisers, and boast the latter ships top speed. However, the two preceding Carriers, Langley and Bouge, are based on a Coalier, and a Cargo ship respectively, and as a result, are painfully slow, and just unable to avoid incoming fire.
    • On battles where members of a team are actually cooperating, especially players using destroyers, it's not unknown for one destroyer to act as Schmuck Bait get a heavier ship to chase it down a narrow channel so it has no way to escape the wall of torpedoes the other destroyers launch at it.
  • You can do this on Undertale against the bosses if you're feeling particularly cruel and sadistic. If you go through the steps to win the fight via pacifism, and then strike once you've convinced them to stop fighting and spare you, you get a One-Hit KO and unique dialogue where they remark on how much of a monster you are.
    Toriel You... at my most vulnerable moment... To think I was worried you wouldn't fit out in there... You really are not different than them! Ha... ha...

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: Archer favours these kinds of stratagems, employing them against Caster (using a slow-working attack and letting Caster think she has the upper hand before revealing that it's incoming) and Lancer (leaves intentional holes in his guard to turn dying from Death of a Thousand Cuts into an all-or-nothing defence, allowing him to stall for time until his strategic objectives are met). Rin also employs this against Caster (Letting Caster think she's won a magic duel before revealing she knows Kung Fu).

  • The dwagon-donut trick in Erfworld is a "defensive formation" example. Attack the enemy marching line with hit and run dwagons, hide the wounded in a hex surrounded by strong dwagons. Enemy raiders expend all their move breaking through the far-side of the donut, only to discover the center hex is empty. The wounded dwagons are in a completely different hex and the raiders are now out of move and surrounded.
  • In Fans!, Rikk leads the crew in the "Python Strike" maneuver — running away. As it turns out, running away is the only "Python" part of it; the other part is laying the smack down on the pursuers.
  • In Second Empire, the immense First Empire task force invading Ziragalen gets the worst part of a Curb-Stomp Battle when their Glory Hound, General Failure commander fails to notice he's been led into a narrow gorge (filled with remote mines and snipers above) in his idiotic attempt to destroy the enemy leader personally.
  • Wilde Life This is Eliza's preferred method of fighting as she will pretend to be weak to not only lull her enemies into a false sense of security, but also so she can destroy them quickly when she brings out her main power to play.

    Western Animation 
  • From the superhero parody The Ripping Friends: A time traveler attempts to kill our heroes with their greatest weakness: Riptonite. Unfortunately for him, the Ripping Friends made this weakness up for the sole purpose of fooling overeager villains.
  • In one Super Friends episode, the Villain of the Week is an Evil Overlord from some ice-covered planet who uses a giant freeze ray to plunge the Earth into an ice age. The heroes seem completely unable to stop him, and eventually, they decide to flee the Earth itself — or so the villain thinks for a few minutes. They then get a message from Superman and Wonder Woman, telling him they're simply hiding out on the moon until they can launch a counter-attack. Now what would be stupider than an enemy who purposely gives his position away? Someone who doesn't realize it's a trap. As the good guys expected, the villain turn his freeze ray on the moon, and Superman (having the strength of the pre-Crisis version) is able to chip a large piece off, reflecting the sunlight in such a way to raise the temperature of the planet to an early Indian Summer and cripple the villain's headquarters by melting it down. He's defeated easily.
  • In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Rabbit Punch", Bugs deals with a boxer by "feint(ing) him out of position." He pretends to faint (that is, pass out unconscious) before the Champ gets to strike, and as he leans over Bugs lets him have it with both fists.

    Real Life 
  • This is a standard military tactic, called a "Feigned Retreat". The Mongols excelled at it.note  The Islamic armies during the Crusades also excelled in it—and the Muslim armies of the Mamluk Sultanate actually managed to pull it off against the Mongols at Marj al-Saffar. Native American tribes were pretty good at it, and they got better when they got horses. Infantry today learn drills to break contact when at a disadvantage and get back into the fight under better conditions. Basically, anytime two units were facing off, and one could move faster than the other, this tactic was something to be wary of.
    • A well-known variation is to use nature as a Defensive Feint Trap. If the defender has no points that it absolutely needs to defend, or it can trust that such points are strong enough to last through an entire campaigning season; and if the area hasn't enough forage to sustain the invader, it is commonly used. The invader has to maintain a long supply line draining off garrisons for outposts and escorts for convoys (which are often subject to partisan attacks when this kind of strategy is used). The effect is similar to that of a Risk player who advances until he has no army left. Examples of such strategy include the Byzantine Empire on several occasions, the Americans during The American Revolution, the Spaniards in The Napoleonic Wars and, most famously, Russia in The Napoleonic Wars and World War II.
      • A particularly shining example of that were Russians letting the French have Moscow in 1812. Napoleon's troops marched into the city, and Russian guerrillas set Moscow on fire from all directions. Soon the French survivors of the fire were saddled with a half-burned, non-defensible husk of a city and a humanitarian catastrophe.
    • Horse Archers throughout history used a variation of this: once the enemy starts to pursue and break formation, the riders turn around on their horses and perform a Rain of Arrows while still retreating. This was called the Parthian shot, after the army that pretty much Wrote the Book on using cavalry archers in a feigned retreat.
  • A Real Life subversion: Operation Fortitude was a dis-information campaign that the Allies used in World War II to get Germany to believe that they were greater in numbers (Germany believed there were 90 Allied divisions in England, when there were only 44) and were poised to attack other locations. The result: Hitler believed that Normandy was just a Defensive Feint Trap to draw fire away from Pas de Calais, where more divisions were waiting. Of course, what Hitler didn't know was that the troops there were just balloon tanks and Hollywood sets. It helped that General Patton was supposedly in charge of the US forces heading for Calais — really an offensive feint trap.
    • The best part is that this is the second time the British had pulled this on the Germans. After the British and American armies kicked Erwin Rommel and company out of North Africa, the obvious next step was to sail across the Mediterranean and invade Europe from the south. In order to cover the invasion, Operation Mincemeat was devised by Royal Naval Intelligence (including a contribution from the real-life inspiration for Q) to fake a plane crash off the southern coast of Spain and use a submarine to float a body dressed as a Royal Marine officer toward the shore. There, it was picked up by Spanish authorities, who allowed German agents to examine it. The body carried letters to British commanders warning that invading Sicily (the closest point to North Africa and stepping-stone to invading Italy) would be too obvious a move, and that Sardinia or Greece should be invaded instead. The German and Italian forces thus had to split their numbers to cover multiple locations, leaving Sicily undermanned. Operation Husky, the airborne and amphibious invasion of Sicily, commenced on 9 July 1943, and by 17 August the island was secure.
  • In the last few months of World War II, Hitler led his inner circle to believe that all German operations were a massive defensive feint trap. He said they would lure the enemy in, then obliterate them with his new "wonder weapons" and vast reserves. Of course, this was all a delusion. The little markers for those divisions and weapons were still on his map. He was delusional in believing that they actually existed.
  • A favorite tactic of Erwin Rommel during the Battle of France and the North African campaign when faced with incoming armored assault. Rommel would order his Panzers to retreat, drawing the Allied armor into range of his 88mm AA gun emplacements, the power of which could disable virtually any allied tanks fielded at the time due to its high calibre and muzzle velocity. This was actually a necessary tactic in multiple battles since those 88mm guns were the only things he had that were powerful enough to actually penetrate the heavy frontal armor of the British Matilda II's and Churchills. The weak 37 and 50 mm guns that most German tanks were mounting at that point in the war were completely ineffective.
  • The Carthaginians under the command of Hamilcar and Hannibal practiced this. The most notable example would be the Battle of Cannae, in which the Romans pushed back Hannibal's center only to be surrounded by the enemy wings and absolutely crushed. (Cannae is still basic material in officer schools today.)
    • The reason for that is because it is a tactic that anyone can easily fall for. Ironically, if the Romans simply tried to cut through rather than fight defensively, they could have broken out.note  Chances are, it would have still failed, but the Carthaginians would not have won nearly as decisively. Either that, or the Romans could have captured or killed Hannibal, turning it into a Pyrrhic Victory. Also, Hannibal had a numerically inferior force, so he was able to surround and destroy the Romans despite having far less men. This was because most of the Romans at any given time were useless: if you don't have any form of projectile weapon, being trapped in the middle of a position means you can't contribute anything to the fight except waiting for the people between you and the enemy to die so you can get your turn.
    • The Carthaginians might have been inspired by their Lusitanian mercenaries, for whom the whole "turn and fight" strategies were usual, or Lusitanians might have learned this from the Barca family.
  • In general, heavy cavalry would be taught never to chase light cavalry if it broke away. Heavy cavalry was essentially invulnerable against light cavalry, if the numbers were close, unless it broke that one rule — because speed was the only major advantage light cavalry had. The moment heavy cavalry gave chase, it would be flanked, and cut to ribbons. Most heavy cavalry were smart enough to break off the charge, but only if they could see it and had enough room to do so. One of the reasons the light cavalry tactic was so effective was the difficulty of stopping roughly two-thousand pounds of flesh and steel in time. It still took well-trained light cavalry to pull it off though, as they had to time it right or risk either losing the chance, or getting rolled over.
  • Almost happened to the Spanish Armada. If it hadn't been for a sharp-eyed pilot on their flagship, the English would have lured the Armada onto the Owers Bank, a dangerous reef in the English Channel.
  • An accidental one of these is what basically won the Battle of Hastings for William the Conqueror. Harold's forces had a strong position at the top of a hill, and William's plan to remove them had failed because Harold's shield wall was too strong and well disciplined. The battle devolved into vicious hand-to-hand fighting at the shield wall until a unit of Williams, nearly destroyed, turned and ran down the hill. Nearby units (realizing that their flank was now open to attack) turned and ran too. Some of Harold's forces gave chase and in the following melee, the battle completely changed face. Harold's forces who gave chase were essentially butchered, leaving a hole in his lines. William regrouped and attacked again, only this time the now weakened shield wall faltered and he won the battle.
  • The Americans at the Battle of Cowpens attempted and failed to use this tactic, then succeeded in using it later on by accident. The Americans were in 3 lines. The first two lines were to fire and retreat to the 3rd line, in order to tempt the British to charge in headlong for the kill. This trap didn't quite work, and resulted in a stalemate. When the British hit the third line, it buckled and fell back, prompting the British to charge for real. The American line halted, about faced, and fired at point-blank range into the British, with a bayonet charge as a follow-up. The battle ended quickly after that.
    • At Cowpens, one reason for this tactic was simply because the American commander expected the militia to run and therefore asked them to just get off a round or two before retreating. Behind the militia was a river and a line of Continental and State troops to keep the militia from running too far. Once the militiamen broke contact, friendly Dragoons rounded them up and regrouped them as a new rear line (this being one of the traditional roles of mounted units). The Continentals were well trained enough to recover from a temporary reverse in the manner described. This battle ended up being the basis for the climactic battle in the movie The Patriot.
    • Another reason this tactic worked was the fact that the American line was in an orderly retreat, rather than a disorganzied rout, and were reloading on the move. Under those particular circumstances, halting and reversing the line again was simply a matter of issuing the orders.
  • Another accidental version during the Battle of Plataea: Pausanias, the Greek commander, and his army had started forming a defensive line on the field, but some skirmishes convinced them to retreat to higher terrains. However, their retreat maneuver was so awkward that their army broke down in several uncoordinated masses, which from away looked like they were disbanding. Believing the Greeks were running away, the Persian general Mardonius charged carelessly with all his forces in an attempt to finish them, a decision that naturally became a Mass "Oh, Crap!" when they discovered the Greeks were simply repositioning and not forfeiting the battle.
  • The Israelis in the Golan Heights pulled off a series of these during the Yom Kippur War.
  • Wellington's famous "reverse slope" tactic during the Battle of Waterloo was a variation of this.
    • Also, his retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras in 1810, luring the French Army of Portugal into an unwinnable situation, where they eventually had to choose between retreat or starvation.
  • Napoleon did the feigning weakness version at The Battle of Austerlitz, allowing his Austrian and Russian enemies to take the high ground before luring them off of it by deliberately weakening his right wing. It worked, allowing an attack up the centre to cut the allied Austro-Russian army in half.
  • The Finns in the Winter War.
  • A well-done retreat will very likely include a number of these as a routine-even if someone is really retreating, he wants to slow the pursuit down and discourage it.
  • Happened BY ACCIDENT in a battle during The American Revolution, in which one of Benedict Arnold's commanders misunderstood an order and marched double time away from the British. The Redcoats pursued, thinking they were being routed. Arnold went to his commander and asked why they were fleeing the field, to which the commander replied "Does this look like we're fleeing?" Arnold realized he had a great opportunity and he ordered the men to stop, turn, and charge the Redcoats. It turned into a complete victory.
  • Borderline example from World War I: at Caporetto, the Italian army was routed and demoralized, but when the pursuing Austro-Hungarians managed to make contact again, they discovered that the new Italian commander in chief had managed to regroup his troops and motivate them with fear of what the invaders could do to their families, transforming an actual rout into a trap.
    • The same battle also features a full example, prepared months earlier by the previous commander in case the near-collapsing Austro-Hungarian forces managed to rout his army on the plains. When that happened, the First Army, deployed on the mountains of the northern border, retreated from their positions, that were about to be bypassed and cut off, to the Grappa massif, where secure supply lines and a ludicrous amount of artillery made short work of the Austro-Hungarian mountain troops, who were practically blasted off the mountains.
    • Caporetto itself has a failed example of this trope. Pietro Badoglio, commander of the XXVII Corps, anticipated the Austro-Hungarians to try and break through at the conjunction of his forces with the IV Corps at the Tolmino bend, and, with orders from II Army command to prepare for a counteroffensive and from the supreme command to retreat on more defensible positions before the enemy attack, deployed his artillery to shell the enemy the moment they arrived there-and instructed them to not open fire without his signal. The trap should have devastated that part of the Austro-Hungarian offensive and made their victory far more costly than it was worth (the main offensive being further north at Plezzo and completely successful), but Badoglio moved back to his headquarters and was cut off, as the enemy preparatory shelling cut his phone line, flags and light signals could not be seen due the mist (very common in autumn, especially on the shores of a river in the mountain-exactly where they were), and sound signals could not be heard due the enemy artillery fire. The Austro-Hungarians broke through at Tolmino, and discovered the trap when they captured the cannons intact.
    • Used on a small scale towards the end of the Gallipoli campaign. The Commonwealth forces would go completely silent in their trenches, then mow down the Ottoman soldiers when they came to investigate. This was done repeatedly, not to inflict casualties, but to make the Ottomans wary of approaching seemingly abandoned allied lines. Shortly thereafter, the Allied soldiers slipped out of their lines and evacuated by ship.
    • The Hindenburg Line was the German army using this tactic en-masse. It involved their army on the Western front retreating to more build up defensive lines behind them. These lines themselves embodied the tactic as the forward positions of the line were only lightly defended, and were to be abandoned in a serious attack, after which the British and/or French would try to "exploit their breakthrough" by advancing into the far more heavily defended lines behind it, now conveniently out of range of the artillery that had been positioned to shell the front of the line. It managed to inflict some heavy losses on Entente offensives, until they learned to halt the advance after taking the first line.
  • This is the strategy behind Muhammad Ali's famed "rope-a-dope" tactic. Used to perfection in the Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman in 1974, Ali essentially backed up against the ropes (meaning he didn't have to waste as much energy standing as he otherwise would have) and absorbed crushing body blows from the much more powerful Foreman for several rounds. Once Foreman had tired himself out, Ali unleashed everything he had on Foreman, who was too exhausted to defend himself, knocking him out in the eighth round.
  • The Shimazu Clan used this tactic to terrific effect many times during the Sengoku Jidai, more than once utterly destroying armies that had them outnumbered more than 10-to-1. It worked for them because, unlike most other clan armies of the time, they were a united force rather than a collection of various lesser daimyo's forces. They were also far more pragmatic than many other samurai, who saw even a pretended retreat as disgraceful.
  • Carried out three times by the Vietnamese, across three dynasties, against Chinese forces. note  The formula for success:
    • Step 1: Plant big wooden posts with wickedly sharp metal tips at the bottom of the Bach Dang river.
    • Step 2: Send small, light Viet boats out to attack and taunt the bigger Chinese ones.
    • Step 3: Pretend to retreat and lure the enemy past the booby-trapped stretch of the river.
    • Step 4: Once they've gotten sufficiently far away, break out the big ships and firepower, and give the Chinese a beatdown.
    • Step 5: The Chinese ships get back to the trap area and promptly get wrecked by the wickedly sharp posts, now visible and in range of doing grievous harm because of the low tide.
    • Step 6: Profit!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): False Retreat


Oldest Trick in the Duel Book?

Yugi's friends and enemies can't believe he tried to pull off the most amateur move possible in a duel. Nesbitt sees right through his trap... or does he...?

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / DefensiveFeintTrap

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