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Padded Sumo Gameplay

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In some games, it's nearly impossible to inflict lasting damage, resulting in combat practically just being mutual Cherry Tapping minus the humiliation. Actual skill is most likely still involved, but it will be more about intelligence (Min-Maxing, planning ahead) than agility (Dodging, improvising).

This trope can happen due to various reasons: Higher defensive stats than offensive ones, an abundance of cheap healing supplies, useful healing/protection moves, combos or anything else capable of causing substantial damage being too unsafe to use, et cetera.

This trope doesn't have to be a bad thing. Lengthy battles tend to feel more epic than short ones, and some gamers enjoy calculating the best possible tactics and perfecting them.

Compare Damage-Sponge Boss, usually referred to as "bullet sponges" in shooters. Also compare Healing Loop, where damage isn't low, but either party heals off most of the damage dealt, leading to fights just as drawn out. Contrast the inversion, Rocket-Tag Gameplay, which is a case of mutually ineffective defenses instead of mutually ineffective methods of attack as this trope.


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    Fighting Games 
  • Exdeath mirror matches in Dissidia Final Fantasy are an extreme example of this. Exdeath is a character built entirely around counter moves, but his non-counter moves are significantly weaker and slower. In the case of Exdeath vs. Exdeath, whoever throws out a move is much more likely to be at a disadvantage, and it turns into a game of doing random, barely damaging things until someone chokes enough times. Exdeath mirror matches aren't as agonizing in Duodecim, where it becomes more of a pure mindgame match of baiting out moves to cancel into a counter from each other.
  • In Facebreaker, stamina recovers incredibly fast, to the point where unless one side connects with a Facebreaker, the fight's almost always going to sudden death. A normal KO is next to impossible unless you absolutely walk all over your opponent.
  • Sumotori Dreams. It's impossible to harm the opponent in any other way but pushing him off the platform. Considering the way the game's Ragdoll Physics are rigged, much of the challenge is not falling off yourself while you're trying to do this.
  • The later games in the Super Smash Bros. series can be set up like this in custom fights: High-gravity, metal battles will typically result in everyone involved hitting several hundred damage at least before a KO is remotely feasible. This is also a lot of the fame and infamy behind maps like Hyrule Temple; the stage is so gigantic that even a Home-Run Bat isn't going to guarantee a KO unless used near the edge. The enclosed cave area near the bottom of the stage is very difficult to get knocked out of, leading to it being nicknamed "Hyrule Fight Club."
  • Some stages in Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion are set up for very defensive gameplay. Like with Smash Bros., characters can only be knocked out by Ring Out. However, stages like Mung Daal's Kitchen are mostly enclosed, with a few small openings on the sides. Gameplay then becomes finding a way to line up an attack such that opponents are launched through these gaps while avoiding getting lined up by your opponents, with most such attempts failing.
  • Street Fighter X Tekken was pretty infamous for this at launch, to the point of receiving the derisive nickname Street Fighter X Time Out. Most combos did very little damage, most combos that did do good damage were much easier to stop than they were to execute, and fighters regained health extremely quickly when switched out. This resulted in a game where the most common strategy by far was to get a life lead on the opponent, then run out the clock.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Halo, by the standards of many FPS games. It takes several hits or prolonged fire from most infantry weapons to kill an opponent. And any opponent who isn't finished off can escape and take cover and their hitpoints will quickly be restored to maximum thanks to regenerating energy shields.
  • The Borderlands series: It takes several hits or prolonged fire from most infantry weapons to kill an opponent. And any opponent who isn't finished off can escape and take cover and their hitpoints will quickly be restored to maximum thanks to regenerating energy shields. Add in RPG Elements.
  • PlanetSide 1 had enormously long time-to-kills on almost all its weapons; bar a point blank Jackhammer triple-blast, no infantry weapon could reliably kill a player in under a second. When combined with the game's awful netcode (where rapid strafing could cause Teleport Spam and desync), it wasn't uncommon for two soldiers with assault rifles to have to dump the majority of their magazine to kill the other. Vehicles were extremely durable - even the humble ATV could survive quite a lot of fire. The sequel, on the other hand, uses Rocket-Tag Gameplay.
  • The infamous "Goats" team composition in Overwatch, consisting of three tank heroes and three support heroes. By stacking up the shields of the tanks and using the healing of the supports to keep the tanks on their feet, they could out-grind any team that focused on damage or picking off targets. The easiest counter to Goats when it was played well was another Goats team, which resulted in two teams that both lacked much in the way of damage but had multiple layers of defense and health gain. This structure became infamously dominant, which forced Blizzard to institute a limit where teams had to run two of each category of hero, and for the update to Overwatch II, they outright limited tanks to one per team.

  • Guild Wars was sometimes disparagingly referred to as "Heal Wars," as all classes had ways to heal themselves and PvP was often a matter of trying to out-DPS your opponent's heals. The alternative was "3, 2, 1, SPIKE!", where all the damage-dealers on a team would suddenly switch damage to a new, single target and try to burst them down before the enemy Monk could catch up. If you could actually burst down the Monk this way, usually the entire team would fold like damp cardboard without the heals propping them up.
  • MapleStory can have this, if you're trying to solo bosses at your level. It's usually expected that you would bring a party of about 20-30 levels above the recommended. If not, some bosses take minimal damage, and heal periodically, making battles drag on and on (if they're doable at all).
    • The Boss tends to be the padded sumo wrestler. Player Characters usually require lots and lots of endgame potions and fast reflexes and/or a macro that somehow managed to escape the hack detection.
  • World of Warcraft has this in spades in one-on-one PvP. Every healer class in adequate PvP gear is capable of outhealing any damage dealt by a damage-dealing class in a matter of several seconds while their offensive abilities are rather unimpressive. Tanks have multiple abilities to absorb and negate damage, while damage-dealing classes have higher than average amount of escape abilities. Nearly all tanks and damage-dealers may regenerate their health to some extent, and may often stall matches by being efficient at running away or incapacitating the enemy while their health goes up. While one-on-one duels are not something the game is balanced around, duels occur often between sole survivors at the end of the arena match, making the winner typically the one who made the least mistakes. However, the expansion Wrath of the Lich King was well known for its Rocket-Tag Gameplay.
  • Making this happen was at one point a popular strategy for players of Kingdom of Loathing; it was called Plinking. Jack up the monster level as high as you can, and also increase your Moxie. You can only get hit with criticals, meanwhile you are slowly whittling down their health turn after turn. In the end, you win, and all of that monster level translates into huge stat boosts for you. This strategy became less feasible with the addition of thirty-turn time limits to fights; on the thirty-first turn, the fight automatically ends in a loss.


  • In Oblivion this becomes the norm for combat at the highest levels, as damage caps at a certain point but HP keeps getting higher and higher, which becomes more extreme if the potential 85% damage reduction from armor is brought in. Can be Subverted if you resort to one of a few Game Breakers, though.
  • A good example of this is Baldur's Gate, where (especially early on) it's common for opponents to stand around missing each other for round after round, the victor ultimately defeating their opponent after landing two or three hits.
  • Fallout:
    • In the late game of Fallout and Fallout 2, you will be very heavily armoured, and you will encounter opponents with power armor. Both of you will be almost incapable of doing even a single point of damage except in critical blows, so combat basically boils down to taking the Slayer (turn every melee attack into an automatic crit) or Sniper (give each ranged attack a chance to crit equal to 10 times your luck score) and make aimed shots at an opponent's eyes, groin, or other body part to blow through their armor and cripple them. Your only other option is to switch over to single-shot, high-powered energy weapons (and to a lesser degree rocket launchers), which would actually deal real damage through armor. It's likely for this reason that when New Vegas re-introduced damage threshold it also kept armor from reducing more than 4/5 of the damage an attack can do.
    • While it is possible to use stealth or cover in Fallout 3, the game's economy makes stimpak spamming a much easier tactic. In particular, many of the added enemies in the Downloadable Content have pointlessly high amounts of HP and qualify as Demonic Spiders for most of the game due to the fact that they get damage bonuses with the weapons they use and being as tough as nails coated with more nails, as part of a failed attempt to balance them towards end-game characters who are putting off replaying the finale to screw around in new locations rather than new characters who are check out the new content as they re-explore the original wasteland. By the time you hit the cap at level 30, they will not individually be threats to you, but they will take forever and a day to kill, even with your Infinity +1 Sword.
  • The Legend of Dragoon has this toward the end. The final boss fight can take HOURS, even if you're well prepared.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, due to the increasing health and defense of certain types of enemies, it can actually be faster to have your entire party charge up the spirit gauge in order to use the full party's ultimate attack, Prophecy (which drops a freaking moon on their heads) anytime you come across one such foe.
  • Pokémon
    • Pretty easy to do with two stall-heavy Mons, or if the battle has been going on for a while and Mons only have Struggle as their move left. Reaches ridiculous levels in Wobbuffet vs. Wobbuffet battles, where due to a lack of actual attacks beyond counterattacks means that they can only hit with Struggle, and their high HP (and very, very low attack power) means that winning with that will take a long, long time. And heaven help you if you both have Leftovers attached, which will easily heal more HP than Struggle will hurt you for...
    • The Struggle attack now deals 25% damage to its user (when it does connect). Thus, in a Wobbuffet vs. Wobbuffet battle, the winner is the last one to strike.
      • The same generation also allowed mons with Shadow Tag to switch out against other mons with Shadow Tag, and switching into Wobbuffet is generally safe (Wobbuffet cannot damage you unless you hit it first), so a Wobbuffet vs. Wobbuffet matchup will quickly end with one or both Wobbuffets being withdrawn in favor of mons with much greater offenses.
    • The "Ubers" metagame in Generation I, where Mewtwo and Mew are legal. One would likely be confused as to how a metagame where two of the most unbalanced Legendaries in the series are on every team could fit this trope—however, in Generation I, Psychic resisted itself and had no significant weaknesses, and about 2/3 of all teams are going to be dedicated to Psychics or mega-bulky types like Chansey and Snorlax. Additionally, both Mewtwo and Mew have access to great recovery moves in the form of Recover and Softboiled, so they can stall damage very easily. This means that battles typically come down to stalling until one Mewtwo runs out of PP or gets hit by a lucky freeze.
    • The Generation II metagame has a reputation for looking like this, and not for no reason. Nearly all the top-ranked Pokémon are incredibly bulky, which is furthered by the stat system at the time allowing Pokémon to max out all their stats, the Leftovers item grants slow regeneration and sees nigh-universal use, the Rest/Sleep Talk combo is at its height, due to the fact that Sleep Talk can roll Rest to fully heal the user, and some of the biggest offensive tools of the prior generation (mainly critical hits and Hyper Beam) were nerfed. Though offensive play is certainly common, it's far slower-paced than in other generations, and it's quite telling that the most notable strategies for damage rely on using Self-Destruct or Explosion, as they're some of the few ways to quickly break an opponent's defenses. Part of the reason the famously powerful Snorlax remains legal is a belief that, were it not for Snorlax's presence and insane offensive potential, then the game would lose the one thing keeping it from being an eternal stallfest. This was significantly lessened with the third-generation games, which retooled the stat gain system to force Pokémon to specialize, added powerful offense-boosting items like the Choice Band or moves like Dragon Dance and Calm Mind, and nerfed some of the more annoying stall strategies (namely, Resttalk).
    • Single battles in Pokémon games by high-level opponents can begin like this relative to the other types (double, triple, and rotation battles), because a lot of turns are spent switching to Pokémon who will resist the opponent's attacks. The opponent, in response, will switch to a Pokémon who will resist your attacks. Throw in moves that heal like Recover, Leech Seed, Drain Punch, and Wish; and moves meant to cause opponents to lose turns like Swagger (confusion), Thunder Wave (paralysis), Air Slash (flinch), and Spore (sleep), and turn after turn can happen with very little happening. It changes once enough Pokémon have been knocked out, however, as the players' options on switching become more limited.
    • High-level play in Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! finds itself in this category due to the very large boosts to HP, Defense, and Special Defense via the Candy mechanic. Some Pokémon take so little damage from attacks that they're weakened more by Toxic-based Poison and fixed-HP moves like Seismic Toss than regular attacks.
  • The first of the Four Generals chapters in Sailor Moon: Another Story is a painful example, where you play as a solo Sailor Mercury, a healer with only one incredibly weak attack, and fight a boss as weak as you are with gobs of HP. Unless you've searched the level carefully for some hidden equipment the fight is close to unwinnable, and even if you have it's still interminable.
  • Final Fantasy XIII's Command Synergy Battle system revolves around subverting this trope. At base damage, normal attacks are the equivalent to chucking a grain of sand at a pyramid, even against normal encounter enemies. However, elemental attacks raise the enemy's chain gauge, which is a straight multiplier of how much damage you're dealing that starts at 100%. Raising the gauge high enough on most enemies will inflict Stagger, which gives the gauge an immediate +100% and allows half of your characters to knock them into the air for complete incapacitation. A Staggered enemy's chain gauge slowly decreases, and once it's about to expire a character in the right role can hit them for massive damage.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2: A skillful player falls into this during Lightning's Story: Requiem of the Goddess at lower levels. The story consists of Lightning fighting against Caius, with a second fight against Chaos Bahamut if the player does well enough. Both of them are using a variation on the Paradigm system. Caius has access to Commando (powerful but telegraphed attacks), Ravager (long strings of weak hits), and Healer (HP restoration and buffing) stances. Lightning starts with access to Paladin (main damage-dealing), Shaman and Mage (chain-building), and Knight (passive damage reduction and an ability with which to No-Sell everything) roles. Thus, winning the battle and therefore maximizing your CP with which to level-up consists of switching to Knight whenever he starts attacking/gets ready to attack, minimizing your HP loss, maintaining/building his chain gauge at every scarce opportunity, and hoping he only switches to Healer infrequently. As you level up, the fight gradually drifts away from this trope, with Lightning acquiring the Conjurer (buffing) and Sorcerer (debuffing) roles; Chaos Bahamut, meanwhile, is a straight Damage-Sponge Boss, having much more HP but no healing and the power to nearly one-shot a low-level Lightning in any role but Knight.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy 3 had this problem in the late-game. Your characters had enough defensive and healing abilities that getting wiped out was unlikely. But the bosses had so much HP...
  • The FIRST boss of Bravely Default can be this, especially in Hard Mode. You have only two party members and only the freelancer job, and - unless you ground your levels - probably only have the Freelancer's healing ability on one of them. The boss is a Dual Boss, and one of them is explicitly a healer. The fight can easily go back and forth as you attack and heal, though it does a good job of teaching you the importance of the Brave and Default system: Knowing to lessen the amount of healing you need to do by Defaulting and maximizing damage by Braving. If you try to Shoot the Medic First you need to have perfect timing of when to Brave otherwise it just goes back and forth with healing (The player's healing ability is no cost, and bosses have infinite MP). Trying to kill the muscle first can actually be easier because he has the tendency to blow himself up when his HP is low, but that does absolutely nothing about the healer's ability to heal themselves.
  • Some games in the Tales Series feature an item called the All-Divide, which halves both the damage the player takes and the damage the opponent takes. Since you can carry a massive supply of heal and TP restoring items into battle, it's quite effective for winning by attrition. You get very few All-Divides, and thus it's recommended you save them for certain superbosses—specifically, the ones that are difficult but not immune to its effect.
  • In Endless Frontier, attacks are Combo-based, being a string of 5 Spam Attacks that can do upwards of 5k damage per character. Each party member carries around very nearly enough dakka, except for Kaguya who uses an improbably large fantasy sword that launches a storm of Fuuma Shuriken on-command. Basic enemies in this game would be Damage Sponge Bosses anywhere else.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has this in spades. Because auto-attacks deal so little damage, even normal enemies can take a ridiculous amount of punishment unless you min-max the hell out of your party and spam Arts like they're going out of style. On the player side of things, Having a properly set-up tank and healer will mean that you never even have to worry about your HP unless you're fighting an enemy that's a good few levels above you, or a boss who decides to pull out some ability that can hit the entire party for a lot.
  • Combat in YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG uses double digit numbers at most and even after a dozen hours most of your attacks struggle to break past 20, and the enemies hit you for just as much or less. The small numbers is compounded by the fact that every single attack is an Action Command, with some going as long as half a minute, and after every enemy attack is an Action Command to reduce damage as well. Each of those elements combined creates an incredibly slow turn-based combat system where a regular enemy encounter takes several minutes to complete.
  • Mass Effect turns into this at high levels, especially if you are playing Shepard as a Soldier. The Soldier's Fortification ability, when maxed out, gives an 80% boost to damage resistance and recharges in less time than the power lasts (meaning that you can have it on all the time). Combine this with the best end-game armors like the Colossus X and the passive bonuses that the Soldier class gets, and it is possible to build Shepard's durability and health regen up to the point where they are effectively immune to anything except for anti-tank rockets and plasma cannons. And even then, Shepard's health bar would barely budge. Meanwhile, Soldiers have few offensive powers so they typically simply blast away with their gun until they wear the target out.
  • Little Town Hero turns out to be like this due to the fact that both sides have to completely deplete the other side's possible moves before they start dealing direct damage (with a few rare exceptions). As a result, battles can take upwards of an hour as each side has just enough firepower to prevent taking damage but not enough to actually deal it.

  • Various MechWarrior games have had bits of this, but it's particularly noticeable in almost all games with light battlemech combat - while they aren't particularly well armored, they generally lack the firepower to kill each other quickly, leading to the light two mechs spinning around each other at 100+ kph firing their lasers repeatedly. Mechwarrior 4 had this in spades, as most mechs carried copious amounts of armor, so much so that only some of the silly min-maxed custom loadouts could kill another mech (in the same class) in less than 30 seconds.
  • Shooting matches in Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation 2 can devolve into this. A beam rifle or bazooka (which can destroy a mobile suit in one shot in the source material) often only chips around 10% of a suit's HP and requires several seconds of cooling down. This is especially noticeable in lower Cost brackets, as suits in that range often only have one ranged weapon and maybe a grenade or vulcans (neither of which deal comparable, consistent DPS compared to ranged primaries).
  • World of Tanks has this in spades when opponents are heavily armored, but don't have enough penetration to deal damage. It often devolves into a Scratch Damage race with HE rounds or maneuvering to try and get the first hit on an enemy's weakspot.

  • This can occur in Archon when a light-side The Phoenix goes up against a dark-side Shapeshifter. The Phoenix has high HP and a fire attack that makes it invincible when it's in attack mode, so if both Phoenixes attack each other at about the same time, each phoenix will suffer Scratch Damage. A Phoenix/Shapeshifter duel always leads to a war of attrition, where the winner is the one with the most patience and the fastest trigger finger.
  • In the Roblox game Battle Buddies 2, every unit has drastically lower attack power than HP, much more so than in other straight-line Tower Defense games. Due to this, ranged units and units with multi-hit attacks, like Prickly Pete, end up being the most effective, and cheap meatshields like Donnie can also survive for a surprising amount of time.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • The early game of Fire Emblem Gaiden plays out like this. Due to weapons not having any base damage, both the playable characters and enemies do very little damage to each other, and it'll be a while before anyone in Alm's starting party can reliably one-round enemies. Also, terrain bonuses provide rather hefty boosts to evasion, meaning there's a hefty miss chance on both sides. The other games avert this because early weapons have 5-8 base damage added to unit strength.
    • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, enemies possess comparatively weak weapons but rather abnormal levels of bulk, to the point that even local Game-Breaker Titania can struggle with one-rounding before long, and are spammed relentlessly on high difficulties. Additionally, Weapon of X-Slaying-type equipment like Armorslayers have only x2 effectiveness rather than the usual x3, meaning that certain enemy types are harder to bring down, many enemies have access to ranged attacks, requiring the player to use weaker 1-2 range weapons, and mounted classes have the Canto skill to enable easy hit-and-run attacks. On the player's side of things, Defense growths are abnormally high (40% is around the average, when in previous games it was closer to 25%), and the more free support system makes it easy to develop hefty-sized boosts to evasion and defense, meaning that raised units can shrug off the combined attacks of whole squads on even the Japan-exclusive Maniac. It's often remarked on that in Maniac, a character is quite likely to run out of weapon uses long before they run out of HP.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light: dump all your money into upgrading your shields, but forget to upgrade weapons? You won't be able to get through an opponents shields and they won't be able to get through yours. Missile weapons help avoid these situations, as they pass right through shields, but you have a finite number, they can occasionally miss, and there are drones that can shoot them down.
  • Stalemates are a common occurrence in Nintendo Wars. Each base can produce a unit per turn, limited primarily by properties supplying you with money. Capturing properties to gain a production advantage depends on the survival of infantry, the slowest and most fragile unit type. It's usually suicidal to rush enemy bases early on, as they're quite easy to defend; thus, many battles become wars of attrition where all parties can only advance one step at a time, if at all. Outside of Timed Missions, it's quite easy to win against the AI eventually, albeit with a poor "Speed" score, but PvP matches tend to degrade into alternating uphill battles. This is compounded by various factors, depending on the game:
    • Many maps feature huge distances, long chokepoints, or split the field into "cells" enclosed by mountains or rivers, which most units can't pass through. Bounty River is a standout example - one long, winding, narrow path that takes boats many turns to reach the action. This map proved such a problem that almost every sequel had to try improving it.
    • While only footsoldiers can outright capture a base, you can stall production by placing a unit on top of it or bodyblocking an enemy unit so they can't get off. However, headquarters often have multiple bases clustered around them, making them much harder to siege. (This is on top of more bases encouraging greater numbers of weak units, and thus long turns.)
    • PvE maps may give enormous advantages to the AI to compensate for its lack of intelligence, including many times more units and bases, giving you a lot to chew through.
    • The AI in Super Famicom Wars and Days of Ruin favors defense. Due to its habit of massing up units just outside your attack range, it requires a lot of patience to break through its lines, or else fights can easily take over 50 turns.
    • (Pre-Advance Wars) There's no advantage to attacking first, because both sides hit each other simultaneously in combat, instead of the defender going second and having their counterattack weakened by the health they lost. This makes indirect units extremely valuable as they don't take counterattacks, but they're very slow to use and will dissuade the opponent from engaging you even more.
    • (Pre-Advance Wars) Only the properties near your HQ can produce units — ones farther away are just resupply points. Even when you're clearly winning, this can make pushing into the enemy base and actually finishing the game immensely difficult, as their reinforcements are right there, while yours are on the opposite side of the map.
    • (Advance Wars through Dual Strike) CO Powers are charged more from losing your own units than destroying others, giving a losing opponent the chance to undo the progress you made.
    • (Advance Wars through Dual Strike) The damage formula makes defensive boosts extremely potentmath: What sound like modest increases to defense tends to make the cheapest units take twice as many attacks to put down, while turning heavier and/or defensively positioned units into juggernauts. When both COs have a persistent defense bonus (like Kanbei or Sturm), it's difficult for either to destroy units faster than they're produced, progressively turning the map into a cluttered mess. Ironically, one of them (Javier) only gets his defense boost from Comm Towers, which normally just boost attack, and are thus otherwise used on fan-made maps to speed up matches.
  • Rise of Nations: The last part of the tech tree is laden with options that pretty much destroy the game's time and resource systems—building troops instantly, for instance. This basically turns the endgame into a contest of who can mash up their armies against each other the longest.
  • In Sins of a Solar Empire, by default, most units are capable of absorbing silly amounts of firepower, such as a colony ship brazenly flying through an enemy fleet and surviving. The "Shield Mitigation" mechanic is the main cause of this, and is present on all ships which possess shield systems, even when the shields are down (it acts as a Reinforce Field on the ship's armor instead). Shield Mitigation causes ships to flat-out ignore 15% of incoming damage when full, and become more effective as damage is taken - going up to 60% damage negation on lowly frigates, and 65-75% on capital ships and titans, depending on their level. Disabling mitigation in the pre-match setup significantly increases the speed of combat. That said, certain area of effect abilities, most infamously, the Marza Dreadnought's Missile Barrage ultimate can shred enemy non-capitals terrifyingly fast.
  • Warcraft III has this as a core philosophy, as unlike Warcraft I & II or StarCraft I & II, hitpoints are in much greater proportion to the damage values to promote a micromanagement playstyle. The Arbitrary Headcount Limit is also 100 instead of 200 supply units as in Starcraft and combat units usually require at least two supply units (with few exceptions) to make each unit a more significant presence in your army. This gets subverted in the endgame with units like Mighty Glacier or Lightning Bruiser fliers who can devastate heavy-armor units quickly in sufficient numbers with Magic damage, and how powerful some heroes can get with fully leveled nuke spells that can be combined with other heroes to melt through health bars.
  • In vanilla XCOM 2, many of your troops can one-shot most ADVENT forces, and be one-shot in turn if flanked or exposed. The "Beta Strike" modifier doubles the health of all XCOM and ADVENT units, but leaves damage untouched, so both last much longer in battle, making Area of Effect, status effects and other crowd control skills more important.
  • "AI-versus-AI" matches in Civilization will rarely last less than several hundred turns, due to the combination of Not Playing Fair With Resources on higher difficulties and Artificial Stupidity. Since it takes a lot less strategy to simply build up troops on your border than to organize an attack and both sides have functionally unlimited resources, this results in them endlessly massing armies and mashing them together.
  • In Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts it's possible, particularly early in the tech tree, to build a ship that's so well armored that contemporary guns are unable to meaningfully damage it except at absurdly close range. If that ship also has enough speed and maneuverability, it can also likely dodge any torpedoes sent its way and even avoid ramming attempts. This trope results when two such ships wind up trying to fight each other.

    Tabletop Game 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition combat was often called "Padded Sumo" by its detractors, as health outstrips damage, many powers focus on moving enemies around, and your more exotic powers are most effective if used at the start of a fight (reducing the rest of the fight to basic attacks). It is rather easy to run through all your powers only a few turns into combat, and then spend the rest of the fight spamming comparatively weak ones. This was particularly bad with solo monsters, which frequently boasted outlandish HP relative to when your characters were supposed to fight them. Notably, one of the bigger changes that came a few years into its lifespan was chopping large chunks off enemy HP.
  • One criticism of Spirit of the Century that led to later iterations of the Fate system being toned way down in that regard was that it lends itself easily to this. In conflicts, important characters (player and non-player both) will generally take multiple "stress" hits (strictly temporary damage on a track with 5+ boxes that are only filled in one hit at a time) before the risk of more serious consequences or being actually taken out even comes up. Since it's a pulp game, weapons and such don't actually provide damage bonuses — a fist, a knife, and a gun are all equally effective at taking somebody down. And anyone who sees the conflict turn against them always has the option to just throw in the towel and offer a concession, so unless both sides make a habit out of playing for keeps and refusing those, a character who's been in a serious fight minutes ago can potentially be already no worse off for the wear once he or she has had time to catch his or her breath.
  • In BattleTech, fights between two mechs can take a dozen turns to end, especially when the two mechs are both of the Assault class from the 3025 era. The tiny weapon max range, huge amounts of armor, weak armaments, and relatively slow mechs of that era can make fights very long, though through armor criticals, ammunition explosions, fusion reactor critical hits, and cockpit damage can bring a mech to its knees with one lucky shot. Later eras, like the 3060 Fedcom Civil War, play this trope less straight as most mechs now carry even more firepower, but often at the cost of a more easily damaged fusion reactor.
  • In the first edition of Shadowrun, body armor provided automatic successes to reduce incoming damage. It was fully possible, even common place, for someone to survive a hit from an assault cannon without taking any damage.
  • Exalted, at least in its second edition (pre-errata) suffers from this in spades. It's trivially easy to throw around one-hit kill attacks, sure, resulting in Rocket-Tag Gameplay if nothing is used to stop them... but it's also trivially easy to defend against any attack with a fixed-cost perfect defense. Once everyone is using an impossible-to-bypass suite of perfect defenses, the game changes from Rocket Tag to Padded Sumo Gameplay, with no attack ever doing more than making the opponent pay a tiny amount of essence, the game's equivalent to Magic Points. As a result, your essence pool is your real life meter, and victory is usually about making the enemy spend essence faster than you.
    • However, the latest errata is intent on fixing this problem, reducing the lethality of combat in general and increasing the costs of Perfect Defenses so that the above-mentioned "paranoia combos" weigh on your Magic Points much more heavily.
    • The first edition circumvented much of this padded sumo element with perfect defenses costing willpower, of which a character would normally only have ten at the absolute maximum. The third did the same by doing away with blanket "perfect defenses" entirely.
  • Magic: The Gathering gameplay can devolve into this in several situations, especially in a Mirror Match. Some deck styles (red and black in particular tend to exemplify these styles) are so aggressive that even a Mirror Match doesn't slow down gameplay, but when two players are playing a "White Weenie" deck (the objective of which is typically for the player to defend themselves and build up a large number of small creatures until they have enough creatures to overrun their opponent, or a "buff everything" spell that suddenly turns all those tiny creatures into powerhouses), a normally 20-to-30-minute match can easily stretch into an hour-long or longer Cold War.
    • In the Commander format is designed this way. You have double the usual starting life, mass-destruction effects are encouraged due to the need to address multiple opponents, and games last an hour on average. The longer games create a place where normally Awesome, but Impractical cards get a place to flourish, though there's no written rules stopping players from putting together a deck that can put out very fast wins.
  • "Goat Format" in Yu-Gi-Oh!. All the major mass-destruction cards had hit the banlist, the primary cards of the format were Scapegoat (summons four defensive Tokens) and Thousand-Eyes Restrict (blocks everything from attacking except itself), Traps and Flip Effects saw a resurgence, and some of the most popular cards were based on flipping cards facedown. The result was one of the slowest-paced formats in the game's history - which, ironically, has made it one of the most widely-played legacy formats, since it contrasts so heavily with a meta notorious for Power Creep.
  • Similarly to the Magic example, Hearthstone has a meta based partially on this. "Aggro" decks are built around putting out as much damage as possible, and games with them rarely last too long, but "Control" decks are specifically designed around outlasting Aggro decks while building up their hand, minions, or game winning combos. Any two control decks can qualify, but the real winners here are a subset of control decks based around milling the opponents deck until they start taking fatigue damage while somehow returning cards to your own. A normal match is around 15 minutes, putting two control decks against each other might draw it out between 30 and an hour, and two Fatigue Warriors can last up to the hard-coded 60-turn limit.
  • Though combat itself in Mutants & Masterminds isn't particularly slow, it's designed to be incredibly difficult to kill someone when you don't intend to do so. Barring GM fiat, you first incapacitate them, then attack them again, at which they start dying, and then you can finish them off properly (or just wait for them to bleed out). It is a superhero game, after all; those mooks that Amazi-Girl punched with enough strength to smash through a brick wall are just fine.
  • D20 Future (an offshoot of d20 Modern) exaggerates this with the combat between capital ships: namely, capital ships typically have tens of thousands of Hit Points, whereas the most powerful ship weapons only do damage in the hundreds of points. Even worse: ships get a size penalty to attack rolls just like creatures do (-8 for colossal size, which all capital ships are), as a result, the ships typically have a really low attack bonus and miss a lot, dragging on the interminable fight even longer.
  • Tic-Tac-Toe is probably the most famous game to deal with this: you can only win by getting three in a row, but your opponent can stop most attempts to do so in one move. Consequently, the game is notorious for ending in mutual draws if either player knows what they're doing; the only way to win is if your opponent makes a big mistake.

    Non-Video Game Examples 
  • Deadpool (2016) has Colossus versus Angel Dust in the climactic fight. Colossus is unwilling to go all-out on a lady. Angel can hit hard enough to send him flying, but not enough to damage. The result is that the best they can do to one another is incapacitation until Negasonic Teenage Warhead gets in on it.
  • In an early episode of The Simpsons, Dr. Monroe gives our favorite family foam-padded poles to strike each other with as a means of venting. When Homer notices this trope is in effect, Bart responds by taking the padding off.
  • After the Battle of Hampton Roads of The American Civil War, there was for a time serious concern that naval battles would turn into this, with the black-powder cannons that worked well enough on wooden-hulled warships no longer able to inflict serious damage on the up-and-coming "ironclads". Advances in gun technology made these concerns moot soon enough, but there was a brief period during the late 19th century in which the possibility that the only way left to disable an enemy might be to actually ram them was earnestly considered and resulted in some correspondingly specialized ship designs.note 
  • In robot combat, like Robot Wars and BattleBots, matches can become like this if every bot in the match has no weapons (this is not as ineffective as it sounds — because they can allocate everything towards speed, power, and durability, weaponless bots have been considered Game Breakers at times). The match becomes either the bots pushing each other or the operators trying to outmaneuver each other without letting them hit each other until time runs out. Because of the perception that such matches are uninteresting (but the truth is that it depends on the individual viewer), both organizations require every competing bot to have at least one prominent weapon.
  • Star Wars:
    • Starship combat in Star Wars Legends is like this due to the sheer power of deflector shields, with those found on even smaller warships being capable of absorbing thousands of shots. Without shields, most ships won't survive more than a couple of shots from a turbolaser battery, but with them, evenly matched ships can expect to be firing at each other for hours before any progress is made.
    • The Film series isn't that much shorter. For all the shooting that occurs between them, starships often may as well be terrain for the Space Fighters to dogfight around.
  • The most extreme instance of this trope happening in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the 1995 match between Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, a grueling 35-minute match that mostly took place in a grappling position on the ground, Shamrock pinning Gracie to the ground and Gracie holding Shamrock down from being able to lift himself. Gracie kept kneeing Shamrock in the liver area, which would normally be a vulnerable spot, except that he lacked the leverage to deal any significant pain to Shamrock. Meanwhile, Shamrock headbutted and punched Gracie in the head with whatever leverage he was able to wrestle for, and despite landing some good shots, Gracie was able to nullify these blows long enough to hold out until the end of the match. In an unprecedented ruling, the match was extended into a five-minute overtime, and it still ended in a draw; to add insult to injury, the fighters were separated when the match went into overtime, yet they were only on their feet for a few seconds before resuming the grappling position they had been in for the rest of the match. In spite of the outcome of the match, it was still considered a victory for Gracie, as he was able to disrupt Shamrock's perfect record with a draw.
  • Log Horizon: In the 11th volume, this is what the "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight between Elias and Leonardo turns into. The former has simply far too high defences for the latter to subdue him without resorting to lethal force, but his fairy eye curse ensures that he can't finish off his opponent either (sort of; it's a really complicated version of Your Mind Makes It Real). The result is a fight that lasts well over an hour, with the former chipping away percentages of a single life point at the time, and the other unsuccessfully trying to stop him.
  • Black Panther (2018): During their Final Battle, both T'Challa and Killmonger are wearing vibranium Black Panther suits. Since the suits allow them to walk off a several-hundred foot fall, they're completely incapable of actually harming each other for most of the fight. Said several-hundred foot fall puts them on the rails of a train whose suppression system nullifies the absorption properties of their vibranium, causing the fight to bounce between this and Rocket-Tag Gameplay: they're still invulnerable between passes, but the first one to land a solid blow while the suits are suppressed will make that blow fatal.
  • Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.: As the title says, main character Maple put all her stat points into defensive ability when she first created her character. This left her with the ability to tank practically everything the game threw at her, but her pitiful offensive ability meant that she couldn't do much to strike back herself. Eventually subverted as she learned new offensive abilities and started becoming more effective at attacking.
  • The protagonist of With This Ring reflects on his battle with a Sheeda Huntsman as this; he's unable to find an attack construct that will properly hurt his opponent, but his own wounds are rapidly regenerated by his ring. Stalling is two-edged as well; he'll eventually run out of ring charge, but the Sivana family are busily inventing a weapon in the background. The Sivanas win the race and implode the Huntsman.
  • Can happen in any real life sport when both teams have very good defense. Not uncommon in baseball to see several innings where no one can score a run (or even get on base) because the pitchers and/or fielders on both sides are doing a really good job.
  • Trench warfare in World War I is often regarded as this, particularly on the Western Front. With the advancements to machine guns, artillery, and similar technologies, there was no easy way for soldiers to close the gap and earn a decisive victory, barring overwhelming numbers or total incompetence on the part of the enemy. Though technologies existed to try to break stalemates, such as tanks and planes, they were generally in too primitive a state to actually get far. What was more, most of the time, armies went for "defense in depth"—that being, a lightly defended first line which would be easy to take, but tie up the enemy long enough for the second line to pull together and smash them. Consequently, most battles came down to shelling the opponent at a distance with artillery, but both sides would typically be entrenched, minimizing the damage of that as well, resulting in slow grinding battles of attrition.
  • The Death of Basketball has this occur by way of flooding drafts with the worst possible players the game's systems allow. Once all the actual players have retired, you end up with a court full of minuscule weaklings who barely know the rules and behave as if they're suffering from catastrophic brain damage. While this results in terrible defense, offense is even worse, as these "doomsday players" can barely keep the ball going in a straight line, much less make a shot. The last recorded championship game, between the Denver Nuggets and the Orlando Magic, went on for twelve overtimes and ended at 0-3.

Alternative Title(s): Padded Sumo, Stone Wall Gameplay