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Opposing Combat Philosophies

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Zoe: Always remember, little one, the first rule of battle is to never let the enemy know where you are.
[Mal blasts in, shooting and yelling]
Mal: Woo-hoo! I'm right here! I'm right here! You want some of this? Yeah, you do! Come on! Come on!
Zoe: Of course, there are other schools of thought.

There are many ways to fight and win. Some folks think that offense is the best defense; if you kill the other guy, defense is irrelevant. On the other hand, if you plan to fight tomorrow, or the day after that, you'd better have some contingency plans in place to protect your attackers, heal the wounded, and prepare for a possible retreat or invasion. Which do you go with? Some folks think that small numbers can overcome greater numbers with superior firepower, teamwork and training; others think that even the greatest can be overwhelmed if you just throw enough at them, and if you do lose, there's more where that came from. Which do you prefer? Some folks prefer stealth and deception, some folks prefer open battle. Which one is best?

When you've got two or more groups with two or more ways of winning the battle, you've got Opposing Combat Philosophies. One general prefers to obliterate the enemy with long range bombardment, while the other prefers to send in the infantry to really silence the other side. Or, in a fantasy setting, the choice between magic, which is astoundingly powerful but takes decades to perfect, or melee combat, which is easier and faster to master. These differing philosophies can be found between the heroes and the villains, or between opposing factions on the same side.

See also Ace Pilot, which includes a section on various piloting styles, as well as Force and Finesse and Soldier vs. Warrior. Faction Calculus and A Commander Is You are both about ways that video games often quantify Opposing Combat Philosophies in terms of game mechanics. It's also a key element of Rival Dojos or Elves vs. Dwarves. Watch for a Red Oni, Blue Oni contrast.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A variation exists in Ace of the Diamond. Both coaches of the Seidou High team are effective but their methods differ greatly: Main coach Kataoka works with almost a hundred players and strives to make the team grow as a whole, in both practices and with each game, even encouraging the bench players to keep going regardless of whether they'll play or not. Meanwhile, assistant coach Ochiai at first wants to build up an ace pitcher the team can revolve around, and is perfectly willing to sacrifice victories in important matches or even other players to do so (in fact, he intended to limit the roster only to twenty players, keeping only the exceptionally talented ones while discarding the rest).
  • During the Golden Age arc of Berserk the nations of Midland and Chuder/Tudor had different armies. Chuder seemed to favor brawny Mighty Glacier units that were themed after huge animals, Black Rams, Whale Corps, Holy Purple Rhino Knights. While Midland preferred lightning fast units, most successfully the Band of the Hawk, and had white everything. White Dragons, White Tigers ect.
  • In Claymore there is a division between Defensive Warriors who have superior regeneration abilities and Offensive Warriors who can develop devastating special attacks like Jean's Drill Sword or Flora's Windcutter. In universe it has been theorised that the mentality of the Warrior in question is what determines their type; those who win by surviving against all odds vs those who simply cut the enemy down to ensure victory.
  • Gundam: In stories set during the One Year War, The Federation utilizes general-purpose technology, while Zeon's units tend to be specialized for the terrain they are deployed in.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has this in two forms. The first is between fighting styles. "Dou"-type martial artists fuel their skills using aggressive emotions like rage, while "Sei"-types usually stay calm and collected. Despite what that may sound like, Dou-types no more or less likely to be evil than a Sei-type is to be good.
    • Later on, another set of opposing philosophies appear in the forms of Katsujin-ken and Satsujin-ken. The former, as practiced by Kenichi and his masters, is to fight without taking life if at all possible. The latter are of the belief that martial arts are meant to be used for killing one's opponents. Unlike the above, this does tend to mark the line between Good and Evil in the series.
    • Later on it turns out a third path exist. The way of Gedou. Unlike Satsujinken fighters who believe the most authentic meaning of martial arts is to kill opponents to prove martial superiority, those who walk the path of Gedou seem to just fight and fight for the pure sake of it, until they themselves are destroyed.
  • In the world of Lyrical Nanoha, Midchildian tactics generally focus on defensive barriers and long range Beam Spam, while the Belkan Knights first introduced in Season 2 prefer to get up close and personal with the enemy to overwhelm them with superior strength and aggression. The heroes eventually incorporate both approaches.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Negi is asked to decide between combat philosophies at least twice so far: first between being a standard battle-mage who relies on his partners to run interference, giving him time to chant devastating attack spells, or a Magical Swordsman, who enters the fray directly. He chooses the latter, like his father before him. Later, he has to choose between The Power of Friendship, again like his father, or The Dark Side as taught by his Master. He goes with the dark side.
  • Rebuild World: Akira really hates the idea of fighting in melee, preferring guns, which gets him into arguments with the Ninja Maid sisters Shiori and Kanae who prefer melee. After Akira has an In Love with Your Carnage moment watching someone else cut down monsters with their swords whom he could barely stagger with his guns, Akira ends up harping on Kanae for using Good Old Fisticuffs (via Power Fist) while getting excited watching Shiori's sword fighting, which prompts Kanae to complain about Friendship Favoritism. Soon after, Akira takes up Sword and Gun.
  • Similar to many fantasy works, the evil Marmo hordes of Record of Lodoss War are focused entirely on offense, with most goblins and werewolves going into battle with nothing but a dagger, scythe, or similar villainous weapon. On the other hand, the Holy Knights of Valis routinely carry shields into battle, and Parn's party alone has 3 people capable of healing: Deedlit the High Elf, Slayn the Wizard, and Etoh the Cleric.
  • Tekken: Bloodline: The Kazama-style of martial arts emphasizes defense, balance and only using the necessary amount of force. The Mishima-style, as demonstrated through Heihachi's brutal training regimen, emphasizes offense, to the point that even its defensive moves are all about inflicting as much damage against the opponent as possible.

    Fan Works 
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Draco Malfoy of the Dragon Army, at least in the beginning, uses the command philosophy of command push (all orders come from the top, and subordinates are trained to carry out orders efficiently without questioning them, but this structure tends to be inflexible if the commander is out of touch with the situation). In contrast, Harry James Potter-Evan-Verres of the Chaos Legion uses some elements of recon pull (subordinates are allowed to use initiative to do what they think is right for their situation, and the commander acts as coordinator who concentrates on the big picture).
  • In Weaver Nine, the PRT and Weaver's Society practice this on the strategic level with regards to Endbringer fights. The PRT are focused on preserving civilian lives and infrastructure, even if it means prioritising defense over actually hurting the Endbringer, and will throw capes into the grinder to do so; the Society focuses on trying to kill the Endbringer and preserving cape lives, especially its own citizens', in order to build a core of experience and reliable anti-Endbringer strategies, and will let civilians and infrastructure burn if need be.
  • In The Hill of Swords, Shirou muses on this with regards to himself and Agnes while they have a sparring match.
    In the end our styles were nearly exact opposites of each other: one implacable silence and focus while the other distractions and maneuvering, one the jack of all trades and the other an ace.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash has two specific cases:
    • With Paul, Ash believes in focusing on his Pokémon's strong points and is willing to work with any Pokémon that comes into his care, while Paul focuses on trying to remove or strengthen their weak points to match their strong points, and discards any Pokémon that doesn't match up to his expectations.
    • With Red, while the two of them focus on their Pokémon strong points, Ash is more oriented to train his Pokémon on their individual strengths, while Red focuses on their species strengths. This also extends to the use of their bloodline abilities in competitive battling. Ash doesn't like using his because he sees it as an unfair advantage and considers it cheating, while Red feels it's a natural part of himself and sees nothing wrong with using it as he sees fit, even considering Ash disrespectful to his opponents for not using his.
  • Maria Campbell of the Astral Clocktower: Maria's sword style is offensive and acrobatic, relying on impossible lunges, flips, and bouncing off the walls. Katarina's sword style is defensive and stable, relying on staying in one place and perfectly countering any attack. Maria also notes that Katarina's brother prefers to go on the offensive (though not to such an insane degree as Maria herself), and wonders if he specifically trained that way to cover his sister's weaknesses.
  • I Woke Up A Dungeon Now What: The Khannite army is built around mostly-autonomous five-man squads, each of which provides their own equipment and tactics, with small groups of more discipline elites for strategic maneuvers and the use of slaves as blade-fodder. The Velthians, by contrast, favor larger, more disciplined regiments with consistent equipment.

  • Star Wars has various examples:
    • The Jedi and Sith orders. While the Martial Pacifist Jedi prefer to resolve conflicts without fighting if possible and try not to kill their opponents if they can avoid it - though they shouldn't be underestimated, since they are fully prepared to kill if they need to - the Sith are The Unfettered and won't hesitate to attack right away and don't care if they slaughter innocents to achieve their goals. Don't mistake that for a disregard of more subtle methods though, they're perfectly happy to be Manipulative Bastards in the shadows and are usually Combat Pragmatists.
    • The Imperial Navy focuses on capital ships and uses cheap and short-ranged starfighters to cover and protect them, almost as if they were just another ship weapon, and favor set-piece battles. The Rebel Alliance, on the other hand, uses high-performance hyperspace-capable starfighters as their main offensive arm, with their ships (that are often militarized civilian vessels) being used more in support role and to finish off weakened targets, and favors hit-and-run tactics by jumping in, torpedoing the target, and then jumping out. This usually gives the advantage to the Rebels, as they can choose to pick their battles, but whenever the Empire manages to pin them down their superior firepower often carries the day, as brutally shown in Rogue One: at Scarif the Rebels jump in and manage to disable one of the two Star Destroyers before they can launch their fighters, but when they're launched and run interference the remaining one is able to match the entire Rebel squadron by itself until the Rebels manage to throw the disabled Star Destroyer at it.
    • During the Clone Wars, the Old Republic uses highly skilled and well-equipped Clonetroopers led by Jedi and supported by other organic soldiers, while the Separatists deploy far larger hordes of cheap battle droids.
    • Anakin and Obi-Wan. Anakin is a deadly master of Form V, which relies on overwhelming your opponent with a nigh-endless onslaught of strikes. His master, Obi-Wan, is a master of Form III, which instead relies on going the defense and ending the battle in quick order when the opponent makes one error. When the two throw down on Mustafar, it's basically the greatest offensive master VS the greatest defensive master of the Jedi order.
    • In the Legends canon, the Echani and the Mandalorians had a rivalry based on this. While they both were Proud Warrior Races, the Echani saw combat as an art form and method of communication. They favored minimal armor if needed (preferring to fight without much clothing in more personal duels) and light flexible weapons or unarmed combat. Mandalorians? They saw themselves as more pragmatic. If you're going to fight, wear heavy armor that conceals everything, bring a BFG, and use More Dakka - to hell with subtlety and the only "communication" you plan on doing is "Mine's bigger." This even extends to the Jedi and Sith rivalry. At least two Echani became Jedi Masters while the Sith exploit the Mandalorians' brutality and need for a challenge to hire them as mooks.
  • The martial styles used by Gabe and Yulaw in The One mirror their personalities. While both are genetically identical and even sharing the same first name (Gabriel Law and Gabriel Yulaw being alternate universe doubles of one another). Yulaw is driven by his desire to become the One, to kill all of his doubles and gain their strength and speed, resulting in him favoring the Xingyiquan style, which focuses on aggressive linear movements. Gabe has been taught by his grandfather to seek a spiritual center, thus he tends to focus more on peace and harmony. His chosen style is Baguazhang, which uses subtle, circular movements. During their climactic Mirror Match, Gabe confronts Yulaw on a narrow catwalk, giving Yulaw a decisive advantage with his direct style. Yulaw has also had far more practice with his increased Super-Strength and Super-Speed, unlike Gabe, who wasn't sure what was happening to him (with each dead double, the energy gets redistributed to the rest equally). Even when the fight moves to the open factory floor, Gabe is angry enough over Yulaw killing his wife to use a more aggressive style he isn't as familiar with, which gives Yulaw the advantage. Then Gabe calms down and switches to a Tranquil Fury state, using his preferred style and the open environment to outmaneuver Yulaw and turn the tables on him.

  • In the Drizzt novels, Entreri believes in fighting without emotion, while Drizzt thinks his passion improves his fighting. Entreri gets way too into proving he's right, going to enormous trouble to set up a death match between them after several fights in which outside factors interfered with the result, and completely loses control of his anger during the fight. Drizzt meanwhile, is mostly just annoyed that he won't let it go, and after beating him points out that this fight didn't prove which of their styles was better either.
  • An ongoing political struggle in the early Honor Harrington books pits Honor, a student of the traditional tactical school of thought, up against the jeune ecolenote , a seemingly out-of-touch group associated with many Strawman Political characters, which thinks that they can use small warships equipped with various super weapons to change the way battles are fought. As the books go on, however, and some new developments in missile design and ship power-plants mature, Honor ends up allying herself with them, using their ideas to complement the traditional tactical school of thought, rather than trying to replace it entirely. This blending of practical tradition and radical innovation dramatically changes the capabilities of the Manticoran Alliance's forces, and by extension, those of Haven as well. Later books also point out that the major problem with the jeune ecole was that some members tried pushing their new developments into the fleet before they were ready, which is why said developments tended to fall short of expectations when in the field.
    • On a larger scale, the conflict between the Star Kingdom of Manticore (and their ally the Protectorate of Grayson) and the People's Republic of Haven pits the Manticoran Alliance's smaller fleet of technologically advanced ships (with rigorously trained volunteer crews) against Haven's much larger fleet of more outdated ships manned largely by conscripted personnel. Haven also has quite a bit more territory to protect (and control, due to - ah - considerable civil unrest), and a much more limited logistical capability, which limits their ability to use their greater numbers to project force as effectively as Manticore can. Later books have the Grand Alliance of Manticore, Grayson, and a finally-politically-stable Haven going up against the monolithic but obsolescent forces of the Solarian League.
  • In Belisarius Series, each political power has its own combat philosophy. The Persians are armored horsemen supported by horse archers meant for wide plains. The Romans have this too, but the Persians are ultimately better at it, and rely more on technology and formations of heavy infantry. The Axumites emphasize naval boarding parties and so have little room for tactics and stress close-combat ferocity. The Rajputs are a little like the Persians but spend more time in broken terrain. They are great cavalrymen and swordsmen and definitely Born in the Saddle. The Marathas stress Hit And Run tactics. The Kushans tend to be a Jack of All Trades, though they seem to spend more time on foot then on horseback. The Malwa tactics are primitive and based more on the need to keep their people under their thumb than to fight their enemies; they rely chiefly on reserves and dakka; when they need actual military prowess it is usually the Rajputs and the Kushans that provide it.
  • A variation in The Lost Fleet series. By the time Captain John "Black Jack" Geary is awoken from his 100-year Human Popsicle state, the Forever War the start of which he witnessed has made both sides virtually identical. Both fleets are full of Glory Seekers who put more emphasis on fast, unarmored ships due to the fact that they can close with the enemy faster instead of the Mighty Glacier battleships, which they consider to be postings for cowards. The prevailing tactical doctrine is that each ship commander's "fighting spirit" will determine victory or defeat with fleet tactics being largely nonexistent. Geary strives to return to the "old ways" of fighting battles that rely less on individual honor and more on fighting smart. Formations are key. However, many of the ship's commanders prefer their way of fighting and are reluctant to adopt Geary's methods. Pretty soon, he realizes that his changes result in the fleet being severely undersupplied, as the computer systems in charge of supply prioritization are designed with a different combat philosophy in mind. Basically, under Geary, ships maneuver a lot more (i.e. more fuel cells needed) and more ships survive (i.e. more repair parts needed). The system is reprogrammed after this, but lack of fuel cells is a major concern until the fleet returns. There are a number of excellent ship commanders in the Alliance fleet, and they end up leading parts of Geary's formations, but the art of effective fleet command has been lost due to attrition and propaganda. In fact, when the fleet finally returns to Alliance space, the admirals call him a liar for claiming to have fought so many battles, pointing at his relatively low casualties as proof. Later on, the fleet encounters several alien races, and Geary is forced to adjust his tactics to fight them (for example, the Enigmas rely more on subterfuge, while the Bear-Cows use We Have Reserves tactics and gigantic superbattleships, and their ancient formations would put Romans to shame).
  • Azania and the Northern Confederation in Victoria. The former is a Lady Land, and so can recruit only women for its military. So they invest heavily in hardware to minimize their main weakness (the physical inferiority of their manpower base) and build a high-tech, heavily mechanized military with its doctrine based on air supremacy and firepower. The Confederation for its part has little industry and money, and so can't field much in the way of modern aircraft or heavy artillery. They do have a large and high-quality recruitment pool, and play up their strengths by specializing in light infantry operations and unconventional warfare.
  • The Union army from The First Law is divided among those officers who value discipline and structure and self-sacrifice, and those officers who value flair and initiative and derring-do. In the original trilogy, both approaches are presented as working about equally awfully, and West has to deftly play one side against the other to ensure that anything actually gets done. They get a more sympathetic portrayal in The Heroes, with each side being shown to have reasonable arguments for why their way is best, and the army's sole Reasonable Authority Figure claims that a commander who subscribes to one philosophy should have a second-in-command who subscribes to the other to avoid falling victim to dogmatic blindness.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The Scoobies munch chips, dress in bright clothing and talk loudly while ex-Initiative soldier Riley Finn is creeping through the cemetery in olive drab. While on the surface this is because Riley is a professional soldier and the Scoobies are civilians recruited from Buffy's friends, it's also due to this trope. The Scoobies act as The Bait to draw out vampires so they can be killed, while the Initiative had to sneak up on vampires in order to capture them alive.
    • Faith, who prefers to charge in where Slayers fear to tread, and Buffy, whose greater experience gives her a more cautious approach. While Buffy enjoys playing along with Faith's Leeroy Jenkins act for a while, it leads to disaster when her hot-headed colleague accidentally stakes a human during a melee.
  • Firefly provides the page quote during a flashback to the civil war. Zoe considers it very important, in a warzone, to keep your position hidden. Mal...disagrees.
  • Cobra Kai: Borrowing from the original film, season 1 pits Cobra Kai (which emphasizes self-reliance and unfettered brutality) against Miyagi-Do (which emphasizes inner peace and self-defense). By the end of the first season, Johnny leads the Cobra Kai to victory in the All Valley tournament at the cost of creating a new generation of violent bullies.
    • In training philosophies, Cobra Kai is all about going as hard as you can, pushing yourself to your breaking point and coming out stronger on the other side. Miyagi-do is about letting your mindful efforts flow through your entire life. Acting mindfully in certain areas of life will bring benefits in other areas of your life, bringing balance to your life. Cobra Kai is a fighting method that can be applied to life. Miyagi-do is a life philosophy than can be applied to combat.
  • For Robot Combat shows like the UK's Robot Wars, the USA's BattleBots and China's King of Bots, there are two emergent styles of robot that have become popular: Spinners, and Weaponless Robots.
  • Stargate SG-1: In "The Warrior" Bra'tac sees two Jaffa training and comments that one of them overcommits on his attacks, which leaves him unbalanced and vulnerable to counter-attacks. He also states a philosphy that warriors that find balance in combat can find balence in life. Their leader K'tano however trains his Jaffa with the philosphy that they must strike with single minded focus towards victory without regards for ones survival. Of course it's revealed that K'tano was in fact a minor Goa'uld pretending to be Jaffa to try to gain an army so his belief that Jaffa are basically expendable so long as they achieve victory makes a lot more sense by the end
    • The same episode highlights the difference between the Jaffa/Goa'uld and humans via their weapons: the Jaffa staff is a weapon of terror (powerful and flashy, but slow-firing and inaccurate) designed to intimidate the enemy, while the human P90 is a weapon of war (less visually impressive, but much faster and more accurate) designed to kill the enemy. This is demonstrated in a competition with the Jaffa's "best marksman" scoring 2 out of 3 hits on a stationary target log, causing large scorch marks - followed by Carter opening up full-auto on the same log after it has been set swinging, ripping it in half.

  • Boxers can be very broadly divided into 3 types: out-fighters, swarmers (or in-fighters), and brawlers (or sluggers). Out-fighters are long range punchers who use distancing and strategy to control the fight. Swarmers are short range fighters who prefer to get into point-blank range and unload with torrents of body blows and uppercuts. Finally, brawlers are power punchers who rely on sheer physical strength to devastate their opponents, often at the expense of speed and skill. Historical heavyweight examples are Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, respectively.
  • In soccer certain teams are traditionally known for a style one could sum up as Attack! Attack! Attack!, notably the Netherlands whereas others are more known for a highly defensive style, most notably Italy.
    • Another axis along which soccer styles differ is the emphasis on physical prowess, "fighting" and team effort as exhibited by Germany roughly between the 1950s and early 2000s and a style much more focused on individual class, pretty play and outsmarting, rather than outfighting the opponent, traditionally associated with South American nations, mostly Brazil. When Jürgen Klinsmann and later Joachim Löw changed the German style from the traditional Germanic Efficiency and "fight fight fight" to the more "Brazilian" style, it caused a lot of controversy. Arguably, Germany only could chose the change in style due to having a better talent pool available as the Shocking Defeat Legacy of the 2000 European Championship induced them to heavily invest in youth development, producing the "golden generation" that won the 2014 World Cup

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • The factional combat philosophies weren't that sharply distinct when it was simply the Great Houses fighting. When the Clans came, though, their philosophy favored individual actions and the glory of single combat with their foes, so whole units would break down to a dozen one on one battles... whereas the Inner Sphere forces tended to be more professional and pragmatic and would do 'dishonorable' things like having an entire company of 'Mechs focus their fire. The Clans technological advantage gave them the upper hand despite their silly code of honor, until the Inner Sphere commanders began to catch on and exploit it.
    • With the advent of recovered technology and outright new tech, the lines between the various Inner Sphere Houses became more distinct.
      • House Davion favors skirmishers, autocannons, and high tech, willing to lower armor or employ vulnerable components to get the job done.
      • House Kurita prefers PPC weapons, Gauss rifles, and later their homegrown Omnimech technology, banking on long ranged power to win the day.
      • House Liao is the sneaky and pragmatic faction, primarily employing ECM jammers, stealth suites, and economical long ranged weapons.
      • House Marik is the oddball—their combat doctrine is unfocused, but they show a distinct preference for lasers and unusual missile launchers.
      • House Steiner sacrifices speed in favor of more armor, weapons, and tonnage, all thrown together to slowly but surely crush the opposition.
      • Word Of Blake used the most advanced equipment known to man, fielding equipment decades ahead of the Great Houses. The Wobbies also employed weapons and tactics forbidden by the Fictional Geneva Conventions, happily dropping nukes, viral bombs, and Orbital Bombardment on population centers whenever they start to lose.
  • In Traveller: Intersteller Wars, the Terrans focus on maneuver and the Vilani on their numbers and logictic capability. However the Vilani underestimate the Terran threat and the Terrans are able to gain resources by conquest and economic hegemony over vast areas of the Vilani Empire until they have an even match.
  • One of the most drastic divides in Warhammer armies is between the Warriors of Chaos, which fight in solid blocks of heavy infantry and has no ranged damage options beyond spells and a daemonic siege engine, and the Wood Elves, which fight almost exclusively as skirmishing archers.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In a meta sense, you have "fluff" players who build their armies to reflect the setting's lore and emphasize the quirks of their specific army, and the "power gamers" out to use whatever combination of units gives them the greatest chance of victory.
    • There's a sliding scale between "shooty" and "fighty" armies based on whether they emphasize the Shooting or Assault Phase more, with the Tau on one end favoring massed energy weapons fire at long range and the Orks on the other charging screaming into close combat. Many armies can adjust where they stand on this scale too: maybe your Imperial Guard army takes a handful of Ogryns or assault-focused teams for guarding the big guns or contesting objectives; or maybe your Ork army prefers cobbled-together Mekboy technology to blast giant holes in the enemy lines; or maybe you prefer to Take a Third Option and go with a more esoteric playstyle - psychic powers, flying units, mechanized infantry, etc.
    • Within the Imperium, the Imperial Guard are the "Emperor's Hammer," and generally speaking throw men at a problem until it ceases to be a problem. The Space Marine chapters are by comparison the tip of the spear, a highly-mobile Elite Army that removes priority targets to secure strategic victories, and will often leave conventional Imperial forces to mop up what remains. The Officio Assassinorum are then a blackened knife, using subterfuge and whatever tactics are necessary to land a killing blow against a single target.
    • The Primarchs Rouboute Guilliman and Alpharius clashed over their respective legions' approaches to waging war. The Ultramarines favoured a sophisticated centralised command and control structure, with lots of discipline and professionalism, adoption of carefully considered battle plans, and an aversion to civilian casualties. The Alpha Legion couldn't be more different: a decentralised command which made them immune to the Decapitated Army trope, a fondness for Xanatos Speed Chess, propaganda, deception, double agents, assassinations, everything meant for messing with the opponent's mind and keeping them constantly guessing. In other words, the Ultramarines operated like the Roman Legions, and were able to rapidly consolidate control over the worlds they conquered and integrate them into the Imperium, while the Alpha Legion were like the Vietcong meets the CIA, and left ruin, distrust and confusion in their wake. When the Horus Heresy erupted, Alpharius sought out Ultramarines to fight as much as possible, to try and prove the superiority of his doctrine, and allegedly was only defeated when Guilliman abandoned his own protocols to make a risky assault against the Alpha Legion command structure in an unstated admission of defeat. Though the Ultramarines insist that the supposed battle between Guilliman and Alpharius is nothing but Alpha Legion propaganda.
    • The Space Marines and Eldar are both Elite Armies, but in different ways. A basic Space Marine is a Jack of All Stats equally adept at attack and defense, ranged and close combat. The Eldar in contrast have their professional soldiers specialize as an Aspect Warrior that excels in one facet of warfare, and only that facet of warfare. The saying goes that if you pit five Space Marines against five different Eldar Aspect Warriors, four of the Eldar will die while the survivor single-handedly kills the Space Marines, because that what she trained for.
    • The Tau have two main combat philosophies, the Kauyon or "Patient Hunter" that favors guerilla tactics and ambushes to slowly wear down the foe, and the Mont'ka or "Killing Blow" that shatters the enemy with overwhelming force directed against their leadership or other critical targets in a single strike. Both approaches are meant to complement the other, but individual Tau commanders tend to specialize in one over the other.
      • A third one is referred to as Monat ("Lone Warrior"), which is known to be practiced by O'Kais, the Tau commander in Dawn of War. Going by the depiction in the game, it involves giving a single Tau soldier weapons against every type of enemy (flamer for melee, burst cannon/plasma rifle for mid-range, and missile pods for long-range, and it's possible to use all three against the same target by careful positioning), a jetpack, and mines that slow enemy units. The campaign adds stealth detection, a gun drone, a shield drone and invisibility for good measure.
    • This trope is part of the reason the Gods of Chaos are so prone to infighting. Khorne is obsessed with spilling blood and taking skulls, and his daemons and worshippers are berserkers who live to charge into close combat. Tzeentch is a patient schemer and Manipulative Bastard who prefers to use sorcerous might to win battles, if he has to fight at all. Nurgle prefers a Victory by Endurance, withstanding the enemy's attacks while wearing them down with disease. And Slaanesh is a Combat Sadomasochist that favors grace and style over brute force, fighting for personal pleasure rather than for its own sake. This means a force of Chaos Undivided will have access to an array of warriors that actually complement each other nicely, with the caveat that those warriors will absolutely despise each other since each specialty clashes with all the others due to their ideology and faith.
    • The Orks are similarly rife with infighting for this reason. Their two gods are Gork and Mork, one of them "cunning but brutal" (he hits you hard when you're not looking), the other "brutal but cunning" (he hits you even harder when you are looking), and the Orks are happy to engage in a round of religious warfare over which is which. Then there are the six great clans that have their own ideas about what it means to be Orky: the Goffs are no-nonsense about getting stuck into close combat, the Bad Moons are flashy gits who prefer More Dakka, the Evil Sunz prefer to race to the front line with Trukks or Warbikes, the Snakebites are traditionalists who prefer to ride a Beast of Battle instead of something with a motor, the Deathskulls like to loot and utilize enemy equipment, while the Blood Axes like to turn the enemy's tactics against them. If the Orks can't find a better enemy to fight, they'll war with each other over these clan rivalries to pass the time.
  • Due to differing ban lists and card release schedules in the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game's OCG and TCG regions, the two regions have developed different playstyles:
    • The OCG tends to favor control decks, decks which aim to progressively limit the opponent's options until they're backed into a corner and unable to do anything to respond. This leads to longer games and favors thicker decks with more control options.
    • The TCG tends to favor combo decks, decks which are built to synergize cards and thus maximize interactions per turn, with the goal being to render your opponent impotent in one turn and then kill them on your next turn. This leads to shorter games - at the top level TCG games rarely last more than three turns - and favors thinner decks to maximize odds of drawing key combo pieces.

    Video Games 
  • Real-Time Strategy games with a clear avoidance of cosmetically identical sides (and possibly, Separate, but Identical) have a general tendency to pit two or more sides with radically different methods of winning (and losing) against each other, owing much to a theoretically ideal Faction Calculus. Of course, this mentality is used in the name of the Rule of Fun with plenty of variation to spare.
  • Command & Conquer games makes it obvious that differing war doctrines is its bread and butter for rich gameplay.
    • In the Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series, GDI favors increasingly-expensive and powerful land units that can easily win a one-on-one fight with anything else on the tech tier, backed by strong air power. The Brotherhood of Nod in contrast runs with cheap, light and fast basic units, supplemented by a handful of extremely high-tech elite units with special abilities like stealth or indirect fire to bolster the Cannon Fodder. The Scrin are somewhere in between on land, with a well-rounded unit roster and a superior economy, but the air game is where they truly shine, with flying artillery and Airborne Aircraft Carriers that have no equivalent in either other faction.
    • In the Command & Conquer: Red Alert series, the Allies favor economy and mobility over raw force, have a strong navy, and also access to subterfuge like radar jammers, spies and teleporters. The Soviets prefer overwhelming firepower no matter the cost, have a strong air force, and their superweapons tend to be unsophisticated things like an invincibility inducer, or nukes. Yuri's faction in Red Alert 2 is a strange mix of both, where nearly every unit has its own gimmick, and can mind control enemy units to give themsevles an unmatched edge.
    • In Command & Conquer: Generals, the USA is an Elite Army that favors overwhelming, highly-accurate firepower delivered by land, air or superweapon, and is built around damage mitigation, so that nearly very vehicle has access to repair drones, some of their support units come with point-defense systems to neutralize incoming missiles, and even their aircraft have ejection seats that mean a pilot can survive a crash and pass on their experience to another unit. China prefers masses of cheap units, so that their basic infantry and tanks get "horde" combat bonuses when in groups of five of more, supported by devastating incendiary and nuclear special weapons. The GLA use guerilla tactics with expendable units that can skirmish from long range, attack from stealth, or become more powerful from looting dead enemy and friendly units. The Zero Hour expansion added optional generals with tactical preferences that further specialize their faction:
      • General Townes of the USA makes extensive use of devastating laser weapons, but they struggle to deal with multiple targets at once, and require a lot of power plants. General Granger has the best air power in the game, but has next to no ground units on his roster, and can be hard-countered with anti-air spam. General Alexander has some of the best defenses in the game and the most efficient superweapons, but little in the way of conventional offensive options.
      • Chinese General Fai loves hordes of infantry that can rip apart enemy aircraft or armor, but is frighteningly vulnerable to area-of-effect attacks. General Tao is obsessed with nukes, to the extent that even his basic tanks have nuclear reactors and uranium shells, but all that radiation is as dangerous to his own forces as it is to the enemy. General Kwai has the best tanks in the game and is great at rolling out tons of them, but has little access to support units, so he'll have to batter through enemy defenses the hard way.
      • GLA leader Dr. Thrax has an array of toxins to liquify enemy infantry and poison the ground, but they're of little use against tank rushes or aircraft. Prince Kassad is a Stealth Expert that specializes in ambushes, but there are dedicated stealth-revealing units in every army's roster, and he lacks what little heavy weapons the standard GLA has. And General Juhziz loves Stuff Blowing Up and excels at boody traps and raw explosive power, with the big caveat that most of his units tend to die while delivering this Suicide Attack.
  • Dawn of War: The Tau can choose between the Kau'yon and Mont'ka (see above) strategies. The former gives them upgrades that increase the range and health of their already long-ranged basic infantry and tanky Kroot units, the latter gives them their horrifying Hammerhead tanks and Crisis jumpsuits. Of course when you fight their strongholds they get both.
  • The four main factions in EVE Online all focus on different styles of fighting. Caldari use shields for defence and a mix of missiles and long-range railguns in offence. Gallente use mainly armour, along with a mix of drones and short-range blasters. Amarr focus on armour and lasers. Minmattar use mainly shields and a mix of long and short-range projectile guns (although are somewhat less specialised and also use missiles, drones, and armour). They also each focus on different kinds of electronic warfare. There are also a variety of minor "pirate" factions that mostly mix up aspects of two of the main factions, but also including some that focus on unusual attacks such as draining energy.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, there is something of an unspoken difference in combat styles between the two warring factions. Fighters originating from Cocoon, such as Sazh, Hope, and the female PSICOM operatives, focus on buffing allies first, then going into battle. On the other hand, fighters from Gran Pulse, namely Fang and Vanille, have natural Saboteur capabilities for weakening enemies before applying the killing blow. The reasons why you would need to weaken opponents first become apparent once you visit the lowerworld and have to deal with brutally powerful behemoths, wyverns, and city-sized Adamantoises.
  • FreeSpace and its sequel exemplify this. Terran ships have strong hulls, average shields, and a strong secondary (missile) loadout, with relatively low maneuverability, speed, and an average primary (energy-based) loadout. Vasudan ships are very fast and agile, but have weak hulls, weaker shields, and relatively weak but fast-to-fire weapons. Shivan ships are fast, agile, and have strong primary weapons, but relatively weak missiles and paper-thin hulls. To compensate, the Shivans have the strongest shields in the game. Terran and Vasudan capital ships tend have their weapons spread around so they have coverage from any angle; Shivan's put almost all the guns in the front to better capitalize on their favored super-aggressive tactics and the odd Hyperspeed Ambush.
  • In Ghost of Tsushima, this comes up as the game brutally skewers the Honor Before Reason part of the Samurai ethos. Jin Sakai is a samurai warrior who witnesses first-hand the shortcomings of the traditional samurai art of war against the brutally pragmatic Mongol invaders and is forced to reconsider his approach. Fighting as an honourable Samurai has Jin issuing personal challenges to Mongol commanders to duel them, and employing highly precise and skillful swordplay to deal with multiple enemies. The dishonourable but effective Ghost playstyle has Jin adopt a Ninja mentality, swapping his katana for a tanto knife and using fear, deception and special tools to even the odds - kunai, smoke bombs, poison, etc. Both options are equally valid from a gameplay and narrative perspective, but Jin's various allies will support or condemn both approaches; eventually however, the stubborn failures of the Samurai philosophy will force Jin to embrace the Ghost, either wholeheartedly or reluctantly.
  • Ground Control features the highly-advanced Order of the New Dawn squaring off against the Crayven Corporation. The Order is utilizing brand-new tech, uncluding Energy Weapons and Hover Tanks, while Crayven utilizes tried-and-true treaded tanks and ballistic weapons. The Order's hoverdynes are good for outmaneuvering the enemy to bring their better firepower to bear on the lightly-armored sides and rear, while Crayven's terradynes have much thicker armor that can take a punch and primarily prefer static defense. Both sides also have different specialized infantry. Crayven has the SWAT-like Jaeger squads armed with long-range rifles deadly against enemy infantry but virtually useless against enemy armor. However, their good eyesight allows them to act as spotters for Crayven artillery if they climb a hill, and their low profile means the enemy is hard-pressed to find and kill them. The Order, instead, uses an Amazon Brigade of Templars that fire anti-tank weapons. The Order also has an unarmed hover-platform that launches Attack Drones that hone in on enemy armor and explode on impact. For obvious reasons, they are useless against hoverdynes.
    • The Dark Crusade stand-alone Expansion Pack introduces the Phoenix Mercenaries that use modified Crayven tech and rely primarily on guerilla warfare.
    • Ground Control II: Operation Exodus goes with the same model. The Northern Star Alliance mostly uses the same Crayven tech, although each unit now has a secondary feature (e.g. their most powerful tank can become a literal fortress by extending its side armor forward to protect other units near it). The Terran Empire uses the advanced Order-derived tech coupled with Walking Tanks. Then come the Virons whose vehicles (called centruroids) are their version of Imperial hoverdynes, but nearly all their units are capable of merging to become a different type of unit. Imperial tactics are mostly of the We Have Reserves variety, as NSA forces are usually outnumbered but still manages to overcome the Imperials with better training and tactics.
  • Homeworld and its sequels use opposing combat philosophies to varying degrees.
    • Homeworld would certainly be this way, assuming that you put Kushan (or Taiidan) on one side, the Turanic Raiders on a another and the Kadeshi on yet another. The first is a complete military fleet whose composition resembles that of a modern navy, the second is a bandit race that is reminiscent of today's guerillas and the third is what a religious, isolationist cult of fully-armed but fragile men would look like. On a player faction scale, the Kushan and Taiidan only vary through special units: the Kushan choose offensive invisibility cloaks and attack drones while the Taiidan choose defensive antibullet deflector shields and defense lasers.
    • In Homeworld 2 the Hiigaran race tends to field smaller numbers of individually more capable, flexible and expensive spaceships, and almost all of their ships have some sort of weapon mounted, even on auxiliary ships that really are not meant for direct combat. Their larger ships are even capable of handling almost every combat role by themselves, at least in small engagements. Their opponents the Vagyr, on the other hand, have larger groups of cheap ships which are each specifically meant for one narrow task, relying on outnumbering the enemy and using combinations of different ship and squadron types to meet specific tactical needs.
    • Homeworld: Cataclysm has the most variety between the two playable factions. On one hand, the Hiigaran Kiith Somtaaw use generous firepower, Suicide Attack holographic projectors and small Attack Drones while the Beast resort to Invisibility Cloaks and much, much low-quality Power Copying from its sources (which in multiplayer, is only the Somtaaw). The unplayable factions largely takes their doctrines from the original Homeworld's.
  • In MechWarrior Living Legends, the two sides reflect different combat philosophies; the Inner Sphere uses tough, affordable, high endurance battlemechs built with (generally) outdated equipment, where as the Clans use fragile, expensive, with poor endurance but extreme firepower. Inner Sphere forces are well suited to capturing a base and then sitting on their ass in it, as they have the best defensive units in the game. Clans are well suited for open field combat, as their weapons have boosted range and they can quickly close the gap with their high-output fusion reactors. It should be noted that by default, players on either team have access to both Clan and Inner Sphere units, as team tech restrictions ("Puretech") are an optional server mutator.
    • In the game's Tournament Play, the major units had a general combat philosophy; Knights of the Inner Sphere used combined arms tactics to dominate the skies and assault enemies from afar, Russian Death Legion and Eridani Light Horse made heavy use of kiting tactics while sniping, Clan Smoke Jaguar generally used Zerg Rush tactics with Close-Range Combatant mechs, 12th Vegan Rangers generally ended up nuking themselves after valiant charges, and Cloud Cobra was a generalist; making use of primarily battlemech forces at mixed ranges. Knowing the enemy's philosophy was a key part of the Meta Game.
  • Played for Laughs in MediEvil, between two legendary knights who were Vitroilic Best Buds in life: Dirk Steadfast, who fights with the Magic Sword and thinks defense is for girls; and Karl Sturnguard, who uses the Magic Shield and favours a strong defensive fighting style. It turns out Karl survived all his battles without taking a scratch but later died at a feast when Dirk mocked his shield and he promptly choked on a sausage.
  • In Shadowrun: Hong Kong, several of the characters' tracks are opposed to each other.
    • Duncan's tracks focus on either AP damage and other nonlethals, or direct damage.
    • Is0bel's focuses on either Matrix or meatspace combat.
    • Racter's configures Koschei either towards Close-Range Combatant or Long-Range Fighter.
    • Gobbet's either improves her control over spirit or improves her own spells.
    • Gaichu's either improves his ghoul abilities or his swordplay.
  • Starcraft:
    • In general, the Protoss field extremely expensive, but extremely capable units; the Zerg Swarm named a trope because of their ability to flood the enemy with cheaper, easily replaceable units, and the Terrans rely on well-rounded units and have the majority of the guns.
    • There's another, more subtle difference between the Terrans and both the Protoss and the Zerg: despite the differences between the two alien races explained above, they are built for the same final purpose: steamroll the enemy either through power or numbers. Terrans, on the other hand, tend to favor a more defensive play: aside from having a much wider (and generally better) option for defenses, such as bunkers, turrets, spider mines and Siege-mode Tanks, they also have units such as Medics and Medivacs that can heal infantry to help with survivavbility, while their Worker Unit can repair both buildings and mechanical units.
    • In Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, you get to choose between several mutually-exclusive upgrades that are set for the rest of the campaign. Problem is that in most cases one upgrade blows the other out of the water (Science Vessel vs Raven, Orbital Command vs Planetary Fortress, bunker that can fight back vs bunker with extra life...). Basically, if the Terrans have it in Heart of the Swarm, it's the one you should have taken in Wings of Liberty (though they sometimes have both).
    • In Heart of the Swarm, zerg evolutions can be divided into those that focus on brute force (ultralisks that do continuous area damage, tougher jumping zerglings, roaches that Spawn Broodlings, banelings that make little banelings on death, mutalisks that turn into flying artillery) and those with a more subtle but equally powerful approach (resurrecting Ultralisks, instaspawning triple Zerglings, Roaches that slow down the enemy, jumping Banelings, Mutalisks that turn into flying casters that can prevent enemies from attacking).
    • And again in Legacy of the Void with the four Protoss factions: The Daelaam are the more rounded faction; the Nerazim favor tricky units take some skill to use either because they're fragile but can deal awesome damage, like the Dark Templar or the Void Rays, or depend on the use of an ability, like teleporting Stalkers; the Tal'darim value intense firepower over everything else, as seen with the Destroyer or the Wrathwalker; lastly, the Purifiers prefer heavy units that can attack from a long range, such as the Colossus or the Tempest.
  • The Sword of the Stars games are unique in that every race has a different means of Faster-Than-Light Travel that tends to affect its strategy and tactics. Ships also have different designs based on the race's combat philosophy. For example, human ships are focused on forward firepower, which tends to leave their rear poorly defended. Zuul ships are a mishmash of pieces salvaged from starship graveyards, resulting in weaker hulls, but their Attack! Attack! Attack! mentality means they typically mount more guns. Also, most Zuul dreadnoughts are able to launch Boarding Pods. The Morrigi tend to travel in large fleets thanks to their FTL drive being more efficient in large numbers. They also tend to rely more on Attack Drones than other races. Their ships tend to stretch more vertically than lengthwise, allowing more guns to aim forward. Hivers use tough, fast ships that are well-covered in the rear due to the fact that their ships are STL (they use Portal Networks for fast interstellar travel with all the disadvantages this implies). The Liir tactics mainly rely on swarming a single enemy and pounding him until he's dead before moving on. They also tend to have the best tech. The Tarka tend to be middle-of-the-road in all respects, although their ships tend to be the most maneuverable. The Loa utilize on-demand ships built from blocks. This gives them amazing versatility against the "carbonites".
  • XCOM 2:
    • The skill trees for Sharpshooters emphasises two different ways of fighting: Sniper is your classic long range shooter, using a rifle to pick off single hard targets at extreme range (and preferably from an elevated position); Gunslinger focuses on using the secondary pistol to deal out a lot of weaker shots at close range. Gunslingers struggle against armoured targets without AP rounds, but their ability to potentially attack a single enemy five times in a turn makes up for it.
    • With War of the Chosen,you get new classes in the vein of Fighter, Mage, Thief. Skirmishers, with their bullpup rifles and ripjacks, are Lightning Bruiser close combat specialists who can move around with a Grappling Hook and possibly attack multiple times a turn. Reapers are stealth specialists who can uniquely attack from concealment with their Vektor sniper rifles, or engage in some bomb throwing. Finally, Templars can use a variety of offensive and defensive psionic abilities to support your other troops, but their dual energy wristblades and machine pistol mean they can contribute to the battle themselves.

  • Unsounded: Cresce and Alderode have been at war to some degree since Cresce was properly united as a country, and have a number of differences in military philosophy and strategy. Cresce has access to more First Materials, and thus their military has the most numerous and best constructs in the known world, while Alderode has a fair portion of the military dedicated to maintaining their air superiority through their use of Dragon Riders. Alderode is an expansionist patriarchy that has their soldiers rape women in conquered areas to spread their unnatural castes, uses child soldiers and has essentially three separate armies, while Cresce uses both men and women in their unified military and punishes rapists in war by cutting off their external genitalia.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Freelancer Agents York and Wyoming. They are both Deadpan Snarkers with some of the healthiest relationships with their A.I.s, and they both have a friendly exterior. However, York is a close range genuinely Nice Guy who prefers to do things himself, while Wyoming's a long range Faux Affably Evil Jerkass who has a tendency to trick others into doing his work. York's disdain of Wyoming is made clear more than once, and Wyoming would end up killing York.
  • RWBY: Huntsmen are professional monster slayers who possess unique weapons and combat outfits that complement their personalities and fighting styles. They are encouraged to put the protection of the people first and so remain independent from kingdom politics and hierarchies. However, the Kingdom of Atlas pressurises its Huntsmen students to enrol in the military as super-soldier Specialists that obey the military chain-of-command without question; most wear the same military uniform and use military-issue weapons, although the most elite will customise their uniforms and retain their unique weapons. The difference between true Huntsmen and Atlesian "super-soldiers" becomes a major plot point of the Atlas Arc, where the free-thinking and idealistic Beacon-trained heroes clash with the obedient, militaristic Atlesian-trained General Ironwood, Winter Schnee and Ace-Ops over how best to defend the kingdom from the Big Bad.

    Western Animation 
  • In Xyber 9: New Dawn, Renard focuses more on ground based combat, Tatania's forces attack from the air. Also, he's more likely to just dump infantry on an area than she is.
  • The Various Bending Styles on Avatar: The Last Airbender, each have their own philosophies; first, the Airbending style is all about "being the leaf" relying on circular movements, lots of dodging, and using non-lethal techniques in general. In Contrast Earthbending is all about "Being the Rock", standing your ground, hitting hard and using the terrain (literally) to your advantage. Then there is Firebending, which is all about overwhelming opponents with raw power. While the waterbending style focuses on flow of movement and redirecting the attacks of the enemy, with bonus healing abilities. The Avatar being the Kung-Fu Jesus Master of All has to master them all, but they have the most trouble learning the element that is most opposite their personality (which is generally aligned to the element of the nation they were born into, the first element they learn to control).
    • The Final Agni Kai shows a great deal of difference between Zuko and Azula. Azula is a firebending prodigy and master; and thus has taken her firebending higher than most others ever do (as referenced by her blue fire, something Avatars haven't even been seen to make). Zuko doesn't have her skills; but he has learned lightning redirection from waterbenders by his uncle, his stance and strokes are reminiscent of the patience of Earthbenders, and he even remembers the fundamentals of firebending (even using one of his sister's own defensive tactics against her during the match). In a way (and the comics show it more later); Zuko and Azula fight as if they were Roku vs. Sozin; their predecessors; which make them interesting foils of each other.

    Real Life 
  • Traditionally, the more agile United States Marine Corps were sent in as shock troops to annihilate enemy forces, while the more powerful but sluggish United States Army would then hold the captured territory. However, recent operations have blurred this division of labor.
    • Particularly special forces in the U.S. Army have blurred the line. However, this is a result of a changing tactical environment (think World War 2 compared to Iraq War 2). The Marines are still the premiere "hit hard, cripple the enemy" forces, but the Army is catching up, though they generally use "hit hard, destroy the enemy" tactics instead. The Marines are also backed up by the Navy, which has both fighter-bombers and medium range tactical missiles, which is a rather large advantage. The Army, on the other hand, has much more artillery.
    • Those philosophies have been discarded as the U.S. military has opted for integrated "joint-force" operations in almost every engagement, utilizing the strengths of all branches, together. This, of course, was due to the resulting Interservice Rivalry getting to such a point that it was jeopardizing major operations.
      • Recent doctrinal changes seem to be bringing back this trope between the Army and Marines. Whereas the Army has re-emphasized large-scale mechanized formations, bringing back the division structure and fighting to get the mechanized infantry and armored units out of the National Guard and back into the active Army, the Marines are discarding their armor and gun artillery in favor of more rocket artillery to support small-scale landings to form essentially mobile firebases for use against land and sea targets.
    • There was a real and well documented case of Opposing Combat Philosophies within the U.S. Air Force during the late '40s and early '50s between Gen Curtis LeMay, who wanted manned nuclear bombers and lots of them, and his detractors who included President Kennedy, Secretary of Defense McNamara, U.S. Army Gen. Maxwell Taylor and many, many others.
      • This mirrored an earlier case of OCP between WWI and WWII where Billy Mitchell, desperate to secure money for his nascent Army Air Force, basically went to war with the U.S. Navy, intending to cannibalize their funding. He put on many highly-publicized tests to try and demonstrate that bombers made the Navy's battleships obsolete. He would eventually be partially Vindicated by History; battleships themselves were rendered obsolete by better military aircraft... mostly aircraft flying off carriers (which Mitchell opposed bitterly as a waste of money that he insisted should be diverted to land-based bombers). No battleship has ever been sunk by land-based heavy bombers whilst underway and in combat readiness.
  • The opposing ground forces during the Cold War in Germany. NATO's doctrine, AirLand Battle was built around rapid response, superior technology, individual capable forces and using as fast a command loop as possible to redirect forces towards new developments in the battlefield, while acknowledging that their relative number of forces in Germany would likely be forced to fight a fighting retreat. The Warsaw Pact, on the other hand, was built around Deep Operations Doctrine relied upon achieving a local superiority of forces and forcing their way through the enemy positions, with a rigid, inflexible command structure to minimize the effect of the Soviet's atrophied NCO corps and general reliance on under-trained conscripts.
  • Similarly, there is a distinct difference between the United States and Soviet Union's respective naval doctrines, especially on their main focus, that of a hot war. American forces were built around a core of Carrier Battle Groups, consisting of a single massive "Supercarrier" screened by an escorting flotilla of smaller craft, capable of safely projecting power at any point on the globe. The Soviets fleet, being a lightyears behind the Americans in insitutional knowledge on carrier operations, was instead built around cruise missiles, mounted on as many different hulls as possible to strike at enemy fleets from a distance. This however, suffers due to the fact that long-range missiles, at their best were only capable of a fraction of the range of fighter craft, and were incapable of the all-important feat of finding an opposing navy in the vast expanse of sea, meaning soviet blue-water forces were dead in the water in a long-range open-ocean engagement with their American counterparts, their answer to this being to throw up their hands and decide they didn't need to fight the navy or ever attack America itself, focusing on Europe and hoping their larger land-based cruise missiles were enough to deter the US Navy.
  • In terms of aerial tactics, NATO forces were built around long range missiles, highly manuveurable fighters with advanced countermeasures to "jink" enemy missiles and achieve local air superiority, allowing for direct air support. The Soviet doctrine on the other hand, was focused on fast, short-legged, one-off interceptors, which would scramble at the first sign of American aircraft, fly directly towards them, and perform a fly-by attack with missiles. On bombers, both sides started out with an emphasis on high-and-fast bombers, with the USAF deviating towards low-flying stealthy and highly effective designs like the B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit, while the Soviet Union retained the large, highly vulnerable high-flying supersonic bombers like the Tu-160, which relied on using cruise missiles instead of bombs to offset it's extreme vulnerability.
  • The contrasting characteristics of fighter jets designed by Western nations and those designed by Russians: Western designs put emphasis on preserving energy in air combat, following Boyd's energy-maneuverability theory, to keep their options open. Russian fighter design, on the other hand, emphasized making loss of energy matter less to them, hence supermaneuverability which runs contrary to Boyd's theory (as many of the maneuvers that are characteristic of this supermaneuverability are only executable in low energy states).
  • The German Army's mastery of maneuver warfare (swift, coordinated, simultaneous assault with infantry, artillery, and air power) was its greatest advantage at the start of World War II. The European Allied forces, prepared only for the attrition warfare tactics of World War I, were left beaten, bloody, and desperate to catch up during the opening years of the war.
  • The Crusades has examples of this. The Europeans prefer heavily armored knights, while the Arabs and Turks prefer lightly armored but still heavily armed horsemen. In a single battle, the European Crusaders proved indisputably superior, thanks to their armor, but were not suited to the hot, dry Arabian terrain, which severely hampered the Knights, and would only grow worse over time.
    • Another medieval example was England vs. France in the Hundred Years War. In France, as was the case in much of the continent, war was a thing conducted by armoured nobility and men-at-arms on horseback, owing to the feudal model of their society and the terrain of much of France being wide-open fields - the crossbow was the favoured French missile weapon, and an afterthought held largely in disdain, a cumbersome and complex weapon reserved for (highly-paid) mercenaries from Germany and Italy. By contrast, England was utterly archery-crazy; the powerful Welsh longbow, crafted from yew and a fixture of Welsh warfare for centuries, could fire ten to twelve steel-tipped bodkin arrows per minute (to a crossbow's two or three) with potential to pierce a knight's armour at 60 yards. It was a requirement under English law for all able-bodied men of age to train regularly with the longbow, giving them a vast population of skilled archers. In some battles, things went well for the French, like at the Battle of Patay, where French knights charged the English before they had time to set up and the English were quickly routed. Then you have the battles of Crécy and Agincourt, where bad weather and terrain (the French cavalry charged uphill through thick mud and also had to navigate defensive pits) favoured the English and the flower of French chivalry died under hail of English arrows.
    • And then there's the seemingly-unstoppable yet ultimately defeated Mongolian Horde. The Horde was a well-disciplined and massive fighting force of horseback archers, with some auxillary lancers and siege engineers taken from the conquered Chinese, and bested the Europeans in open battle in the plains of far eastern Europe, but their Chinese engineers were not up to the task of actually besting a European Castle, and the Mongolians themselves were foiled by the less monolithically plained land further into Europe, which exacerbated the issue of their light composite bows difficulty in piercing the heavy armor of the European knights (contrast the massive yew longbows of the English, which had far less difficulty in performing this feat), and had their ability to outmaneuver their foes limited, which would lead to Mongolian lancers with lamellar armor on small steppe horses being forced into head-to-head confrontations with the European Knights in full maille atop the larger, more aggressive Destriers with longer lances, and no time to wear them down from afar with arrow after arrow, and worse yet, the death of Genghis Khan gave the Europeans time to unite themselves and raise more and greater keeps, boxing the Mongols in strategically.
  • Until quite recently there was a remarkable variability in this due to terrain, economics, ideology and what not. This may have gotten less so in modern times; most countries seem to try to imitate European style. Except for guerrillas which are the other main combat philosophy of the modern world.
  • The strategies each side of the American Civil War employed during most of the war. The Confederate strategy relied on a series of decisive victories in pitched battle that would quickly force the Union to the negotiating table once they lost their stomach for war. The Union strategy (mostly) involved attrition and the control of key locations, knowing it would be able to outlast the Confederacy in any prolonged conflict due to their industrial superiority and population advantage. The dual Union victories at Gettsyburg and Vicksburg in the first week of July 1863 illustrate the success of one strategy (the Union gained complete control of the Mississippi River, further tightening the noose around the Confederacy) and the failure of another (Lee banking on a decisive victory on Union soil and being utterly foiled, resulting in a decisive tactical and strategic defeat the Confederacy could not recover from.)
    • This appeared on the Union side for much of the war, represented in the persons of General George McClellan and General Ulysses S. Grant. McClellan, Father to His Men through and through, was always cautious, losing several battles and even more opportunities because he had overestimated the strength of the Confederate forces. Grant, on the other hand, was willing to press the North's advantages for all they were worth, including the advantage of manpower, in order to bring a faster victory. The result was the sacking of McClellan and (eventually) the appointment of Grant in his place as commanding general of the Army. Grant wasn't callous to his losses—in fact, it often horrified him—but understood strategically that this was the only viable way to win, whereas McClellan was too timid for his own good, unable to seize the initiative for fear of losses, thereby making "mistakes of kindness" of the exact sort warned against by Clausewitz.
  • This came to the fore during the Second Punic War on the Roman side. With Hannibal smashing one Roman army after another in Italy, Quintus Fabius Maximus came to lead a new Roman army to oppose the Carthaginians. Fabius used his army to shadow and harrass Hannibal, refusing the open battle Hannibal desired and all the while reducing Carthaginian morale, numbers, and supplies. However, this strategy was time consuming and the Romans wanted to smash Hannibal once and for all, so the Senate instead placed the aggressive Gaius Terentius Varro in charge. He gave Hannibal an open battle, outnumbering him nearly 2-1.... And had his army annihilated at the Battle of Cannae. In the end, Fabius was proven correct, since he knew that Hannibal would never have the manpower or resources to ever try and capture Rome, and knew Hannibal grossly underestimated Roman resolve.
    • On the strategic level, Rome's ultimate success against Carthage (and its rise to power in general) was due to the fact that they approached warfare on an all-or-nothing basis rather than merely as "a continuation of politics by other means," which was the default for conflicts between settled societies of the time. Where the Carthaginians were convinced that destroying Roman armies in the field would bring them humbly to the peace table (which is part of why Hannibal never actually marched on Rome itself), the Romans instead believed that they were involved in a do-or-die struggle for survival. When they gained the upper hand, the Romans took the initiative to dismantle Carthage's empire almost entirely (and ultimately destroy the city itself).
  • When the Romans and the Greeks came to blows with each other, they both used different methods in warfare. The Greeks mostly fought in phalanx formation which they would place all their infantry in a long wall of spears and shields, while the Romans would fight in maniples where their infantry are organized in several loose box formations. The phalanx was strong and sturdy, but it was inflexible and is weak on being outflanked from the sides and rear. The Roman maniple was far more flexible, and the army could change to a new formation if they could get a better advantage... As they had learned on their own skin back when they too used the phalanx and suffered a devastating defeat against the Samnites, who used proto-manipular tactics.
    • The Romans were also big on combined arms: while their best forces were always in the heavy infantry of the legion, they would also use light infantry for skirmish and rain arrows on the enemy and cavalry for recon and shock. Most of their enemies, on the other hand, tended to concentrate only on one kind of troop, resulting in the Samnite infantry-only armies and the Greek unsupported phalanxes being outflanked by cavalry, Parthian cavalry-based armies being unable to fully take on the Roman combined infantry-cavalry formations once the Romans adopted Parthian-style cavalry, and so on, with Rome's greatest opponents giving them trouble because they too had a similar approach (Hannibal's army included a heavy infantry phalanx, skirmishers, and a formidable cavalry).
    • Rome's main military advantage was also it's defining social trait: an unapologetic willingness to copy other cultures' ideas wholesale and make them their own. Most cultures at the time put entirely too much importance on fighting the same way they had for centuries, or just ripping off Alexander the Great without actually understanding his tactics (like the Romans he also used combined arms, and showed willingness to include Persian tactics and formations in his army).
  • Martial Arts is often divided into "Hard" and "Soft" categories; usually accepted as using force directly or redirecting an opponent's force.
  • In World War II Germany relied on its virtuousity in maneuver warfare to clock off a string of victories in local campaigns. Britain relied on its Navy, the resources of The British Empire, and hundreds of years of experience in global wars; as well as deception and their patronage of La Résistance to buy time until allies arrived and wear down German strength. America relied on industrial capacity. Its most notable tactical strength was its massive and superbly-manned air power. The Soviets relied on numbers and furious counter-attacks in the first period of war (1941-2) sophisticated deception operations to muster overwhelming concentrations of artillery in unexpected sectors in the second (1942-3), and rapid exploitation by cavalry and mechanised units (with air-support) of the holes their artillery could punch in the enemy lines in the third (1943-5). Japan relied on the individual skill of its personnel as well as their " warrior spirit". Finland, with nothing else to rely on, depended on the roughness of their country and its people.
    • Sir Arthur Harris, head of RAF Bomber Command during WW II opposed anyone who didn't hew to his strategy of bombing German cities. He believed the quickest way to end the war was to specifically target cities and civilian populations, over an invasion of Europe. Despite the fact that the German Luftwaffe had attempted to defeat Britain in the exact same manner, which failed utterly.
    • The US also banked on its massive logistical capacity, combined with that industrial capacity. Per capita, the US had a much smaller front line fighting force than any other nation, but a much larger support structure for that force, able to supply troops fighting on four continents even while dealing with the German and Japanese efforts to interrupt their seaborne supply lines (German submarine warfare and Japanese island warfare being the main threats to Allied lines of communication and supply during the war)
  • Differing doctrines and philosophies also lead to different approaches to warship design. One oft-cited example is the difference between American and British carrier design and operation. The Royal Navy assumed that their carriers would often operate relatively close to land, due to much of their traditional area of operations being around the English Channel and Mediterranean, and so their carriers featured heavy Anti-Air armament, with their aircraft stored inside an armored hangar (with the flight deck itself being armored and part of the ship's primary structure). The Americans assumed that their carriers would primarily operate in the open seas (the US being flanked by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with colonies strung across the Pacific as far away as the Philippine Islands), and placed their armor protection beneath the hangar decks, leaving the open hangars and flight deck as part of the ship's superstructure instead, far more vulnerable, but with a much smaller weight penalty. In addition, the American doctrine included keeping planes parked on the flight deck (seeing as it provided no additional protection from attack than the hangar did). Overall, the American carriers were able to field much larger air wings than their British counterparts, making it less likely for them to be successfully attacked. Later in the war, the Americans did add additional Anti-Air protection, and the Brits began parking additional planes on their flight decks, having adapted their strategies based on wartime experience.
    • The Soviets didn't field any carriers during WWII, but in the Cold War, they viewed their carriers as defensive weapons, rather than force projection weapons like the Americans and British did. Many Soviet carriers, described as Aviation Cruisers, were built as surface warfare ships which also happened to carry a flight deck sufficient to put up a light aerial screen to protect the fleet from attack.
  • German vs. English longsword fencing. The German masters teach to control the battle by attacking, and keeping your opponent on his back foot by forcing him to respond to your attacks and not giving him time to launch any of his own. The English, however, teach to control the battle by drawing your opponent to attack by offering him conspicuous openings, and thereby controlling your opponents attacks and luring your opponent to expose himself.
  • Purpose-built Tank Destroyers during WWII.
    • Most nations (Primarily Germany and the Soviet Union) made turretless designs with a low profile, heavy armour, and a large gun, with the idea being that they'd lay in wait at a defensive position, and since they knew which way the enemy would approach from they didn't need a turret, so removing it reduced weight and freed up some space in the body, allowing for heavier armour and more room for ammunition.
    • The US assumed that Germany would use concentration of power to break through at a point of their choosing, with tanks. Therefore, a rapid reaction capable of taking on a force of enemy tanks was deemed necessary. This became the Tank Destroyer branch. It is a common misconception that the tank destroyers destroyed tanks and nobody else did. The key difference is in the role. The Tank Destroyers were intended as a defensive measure, countering attacking enemy tanks. While the regular tanks were to be kept for offensive purposes, which includes fighting against defending and counterattacking enemy tanks. Many designs were tried, but the Tank Destroyer requirements were difficult to meet. They wanted speed, firepower and survivability while also trying to keep cost and manpower low so more men and material is available for the frontline. Another problem was that for the Tank Destroyers to work as intended was that they had to be kept in reserve, in case of an enemy breakthrough. Usually, commanders didn't like having them twiddling their thumbs and sent them in to help the frontline. This strengthened the front, but made them unable to mass quickly enough to counter an enemy breakthrough. All in all, it was concluded that the best approach was to just use tanks for both countering a breakthrough and doing the attacks. Tank Destroyer doctrine ate up more resources and manpower than was worth it and it was overspecialized for a specific defensive situation. That being said, there is at least one instance of it working exactly as intended, cost-effectively stopping a German armoured spearhead in Africa.
      • The British also used some of the designs created for the Tank Destroyer doctrine, though it was mainly due to the fact that they needed more armoured vehicles than they could produce, and the US was the only people giving them any.
  • At the Battle of Lepanto, the Ottoman fleet focused mostly on traditional boarding tactic, used mostly archers as their light ranged options, and relied on enslaved Christians to row their galleys, while the Holy League focused on the new artillery, used mostly musketeers as their light ranged options even to the detriment of melee fighters, and relied on either convicts or volunteers to row their galleys. The Ottoman fleet was decimated by the brand-new Venetian galleasses at the start of the battle and continued to suffer losses in ships and manpower to the Holy League's heavier artillery and longer-ranged musketeers while unable to retaliate much as many Christian soldiers wore heavy armor that could take the Ottoman arrows, and when the Ottoman flagship and its escorts were about to overwhelm and capture the League's flagship the crews were reinforced by their convicts who had been promised pardons upon victory and knew would remain at the row for life if they were defeated, decisively turning the tide against the last Ottoman chance at winning (the Ottoman admiral's attempt at pulling the same failed miserably, as his rowers didn't trust him to keep his word and knew that the Holy League would free them on the spot).
  • During the wars of independence in Spanish South America, there was Simón Bolívar vs. everyone else. Bolívar's takeaway from the failure of the First Venezuelan Republic was that defensive warfare was for suckers, and he therefore embraced aggressive-to-the-point-of-reckless offensives as a cornerstone of his tactics and strategy. Meanwhile, many if not most of his fellow Patriots were wary of Bolívar's inclination to attack; given that the Spanish were on the opposite side of the world, a defensive posture should work to win independence (after all, grinding defense was how George Washington & Co. had managed to win the American War of Independence). This difference had mixed results: while Bolívar's approach had its successes (at one point, he went from "penniless exile in Curaçāo" to "dictator of Venezuela in all but name" in seven months) and ultimately worked (there's a reason he's still remembered as El Libertador), it also had its massive failures. The most prominent of these failures is the time he attacked the Llanero "Legions of Hell" at 2nd La Puerta and doomed the Second Venezuelan Republic by the crushing defeat he suffered thereby, even though Santiago Mariño had staked out a very strong defensive position that could have destroyed the Legions or at least kept them at bay had Bolívar's forces been available.