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The Horde

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"I'm Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka an' I speak wiv da word of da gods. We iz gonna stomp da 'ooniverse flat an' kill anyfing that fights back. We iz gonna do this coz' we're Orks an' we was made ta fight an' win!"
Graffiti found on a wrecked Warhound Titan at Westerlie, Piscina V, Warhammer 40,000

They come sweeping down from the mountains like an avalanche, or surging from the deep forest like a tide of vermin. They come from across the sea in their dragon-prowed ships, or storming from the forsaken wastes that no other men can dwell in. They come to Rape, Pillage, and Burn, howling like death itself, and leave only destruction and despair in their wake. They waylay travelers, ransack peasant villages, and even lay siege to the bastions of civilization. They take only what plunder and slaves they can carry, and torch and butcher the rest.

The third standard fantasy government alongside The Empire and The Good Kingdom, The Horde is a large group of barbaric or beastly warriors bound solely through either tribal ties (if disorganized) or the will of the Evil Overlord or The Warlord (if organized). Like the Proud Warrior Race Guy, they value strength above all else, but are usually nowhere near as honorable. Their leader is usually the strongest, toughest, and/or most vicious or cunning of the group, often because the fastest way to advance through the ranks is via killing your superiors.

In some cases, the Horde may have some specific goal in mind in its rampage, typically focusing on conquering and subjugating the lands they're overrunning. Others don't have any aim beyond battle itself, and simply throw themselves at target after target without giving any particular thought to what they'll do after they've crushed all opposition. In these latter cases, a victorious Horde will typically find itself losing the drive that held it together, and will either gradually lose steam and dissolve or destroy itself in infighting. Other Hordes don't actually reach this point, and simply move from target to target until they find one too strong to overwhelm and are themselves destroyed.

In battle itself, Hordes rarely go in for the finer points of strategy. Some may use more complex tactics, sometimes making use of their disorganized structures to engage in guerrilla combat with their foes, but most just rely in the tried-and-true method of throwing a great big tide of screaming warriors at the enemy army and winning battles through sheer berserk momentum. Their gear can vary more significantly — some will wear nothing but animal pelts and warpaint, perhaps incorporating the bones of animals or people, while others will be clad in heavy plate from head to toe. Weaponry is almost invariably of the melee kind, and will usually be some form of Savage Spiked Weapons. It's also fairly common for Hordes to bring along Beasts of Battle, War Elephants and the like, in contrast to civilized armies that are more likely to use mechanical contrivances, to emphasize their bestial, primal and technologically backwards natures.

Human Hordes will resemble the Vikings, Mongols, Huns, Comanches, Celts, and/or other so-called "barbarian" tribes of history (the word even comes from the Mongolian/Turkic "orda", which originally referred to military encampments). The Horde is also the most common depiction of orcs, regardless of any other differences. Any "sub-human" or monstrous race will do, though, be they goblins, ogres, Lizard Folk, beastmen or any other "barbaric" Standard Fantasy Races — a coalition is even possible since evil is an equal opportunity employer. In some settings The Legions of Hell or The Undead may serve as the Horde. In science fiction, the local Space Orcs are the likeliest culprits. In a pinch you could even have large bandit gangs filling this role.

A popular convention is for the horde to originate from the east, with the west portrayed as the civilized society that is being overrun.

Compare The Usual Adversaries and the Horde of Alien Locusts.

For the 1994 video game by the same name, click here.


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    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: This is a common archetype for Red decks and in-universe Red armies, often involving creating or empowering a large amount of creatures with abilities meant to allow them to attack powerfully and often, or just flooding your opponent with a swarm of cheap, weak creatures. The most common creature types associated with Red and this sort of play tend to be things like goblins, orcs, giants, barbarians and so on.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Mulan, this is the portrayal of the Huns. They're a mass of bloodthirsty barbarians with no redeeming qualities, invading and pillaging China for the sake of doing so, and those few that aren't faceless Mooks are thoroughly evil monsters who engage in one dog-kicking after another. They're even drawn in a distinctly inhuman way, with eyes with black "whites" and yellow scleras, and claws on the tips of their gloves. Even their horses look evil!

  • The Infection in An Outcast in Another World turns the animals of Ixatan Forest into thousands of mutated, mindless beasts hellbent on killing everyone. They're later revealed not to be quite so mindless. Humans are somewhat seen as this by the other races of Elatra, as they gain strength quickly and reproduce at a significantly faster rate.
  • Arrivals from the Dark: The Shas-ga in The Sword above the Abyss are nomadic barbarians from planet Ravana (AKA Inferno), who roam the barren steppes north of an impassable mountain range on the Western continent. While normally divided into tribal groups called Hearths, they are now united by a powerful leader called Grey Trumpeter (a title, not a name, kind of like Genghis Khan), who has managed to find a passage through the mountains to the more temperate southern lands. The Shas-ga are cannibals and often kill their own women and children for food and as sacrifices to their gods. Their warriors ride on massive ox-like beasts with a nasty temper. Now that they have crossed the mountains, their enormous horde (about 30,000 warriors, which is big number on Ravana, whose population is small) threatens to wipe out the much more civilized cultures on the southern part of the continent, unless the disparate Kjoll barons, the eastern trade towns, and even the southern barbarians join together to meet this threat.
  • Blood Meridian: the Comanche warband that wipes out Captain White's filibuster are described in this way, though this is averted with other Native American groups encountered.
    A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained wedding veil and some in headgear or cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a Spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or sabre done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses' ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse's whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen's faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of Christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.
  • Subverted in The Brightest Shadow. There is a non-human race that appears monstrous, but though the humans view them as a horde, they're actually a complex government-led army with many factions.
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz: The more civilized states view the Plains nomads this way in the second segment. In the first segment, we have references to earlier hordes and mass migrations.
  • Codex Alera has no less than three examples.
    • The first is the Canim, nine-foot wolfmen who are a Proud Warrior Race and occasionally launch raiding parties at Alera from across the sea. Ultimately subverted in that the horde-like Canim are actually the Raiders, a nonprofessional militia drawn from the Canim's civilian caste. The actual warrior-caste Canim, who rarely come to Alera in large numbers, are at least as disciplined, organized, and professional as their Aleran legion counterparts, and most have a lot more experience since Canim can live for centuries.
    • The second is the Marat, who live on the neighboring continent and occasionally launch massive hordes through the neighboring isthmus. It is one of these raids that leads to the start of the series fifteen years prior, and an actual horde attack occurs at the climax of the first book.
    • Both the Canim and Marat are deconstructions of the trope, though. They have sympathetic motives and are willing to meet the protagonists halfway, eventually even allying to take on a much bigger horde:
    • The third is the Vord, a shapechanging, zerg-shout-out army of insectoid horrors that sweeps most of the continent, which is played as a much straighter example than the first two.
  • Conan the Barbarian: Several people are the Horde or can become it under certain circumstances: The Picts, the Hyrkanians, the Nordheimers, the less-civilized natives of the Black Kingdoms (especially the Darfari), and of course Conan's people, the Cimmerians. In Black Colossus, Natohk's nomad forces are considerably more than the usual raiders, and consist of thirty tribes.
  • Conqueror: The Mongols, a rare case of the Horde being the protagonists. The Tartars in the first book might also qualify, making it a case of Horde vs Horde.
  • David Drake, as a student of Byzantine history, takes pains to explain that chroniclers always wrote up defeats as being at the hands of insane numbers of enemies rather than the truth: that the horde was always highly skilled and highly mobile combat pragmatists who outfought the clumsier "career military" of civilized nations.
  • Deathworld 3 (originally published as The Horse Barbarians) has Jason invite some of the Pyrrans to help colonize the mineral-rich planet Felicity, a Lost Colony. Unfortunately, the mining efforts are being thwarted by Mongol-like tribes of nomads who roam the steppes of the plateau covering a large chunk of the planet's only continent. Due to their beliefs, any permanent structure is deemed as evil and must be destroyed along with those who have perpetrated this deed. Naturally, this goes against any plans to mine resources on Felicity. The normally warring tribes have banded together under the banner of Temujin, who has vowed to keep their traditions and destroy the otherworlders who violate their rules. Jason infiltrates the horde as a Wandering Minstrel from a tribe that has yet to join and manages to get close to Temujin. However, the chief figures out that Jason is lying and throws him into a pit. Jason survives and finds out that the fertile lowlands are home to an agrarian culture. He comes back as a "spirit" to Temujin and leads him on a great crusade to destroy the lowland offenders and even teaches the nomads some of their technology, such as gunpowder. At the end, the fate of the nomads directly mirrors that of the Real Life Mongols. After conquering the lowlands, they start enjoying the luxuries of sedentary life and abandon their traditions. Temujin realizes this but can't undo what was done. The plateau is abandoned, and the Pyrrans are free to mine it.
  • The Dresden Files: Outsiders bring this, Eldritch Abomination, and Hive Mind together in one mindrending, magic-eating, world-ending package.
  • Earthsea: The Kargs come off as this, particularly in A Wizard of Earthsea, where they're essentially Vikings. They get some Character Development in the next book, The Tombs of Atuan, but it's pretty clear that most of Earthsea considers them to be exactly this trope.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs has a few:
  • Emberverse: Large bands of roaming survivors, plundering as they go to sustain themselves, are a common threat after the Change, especially after things get bad enough for many to turn to cannibalism. While many die out eventually, some survive into later periods; notable are the Bekwa tribes, descendants of the survivors in Quebec who have become a large, barely-united band of marauders who continually menace the outposts of civilization in northern Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. The only reason they show any unity at all is because the CUT has gained influence over them.
  • Eurico the Presbyter presents the Arabs and Moors in this way sweeping across the Iberian Penisula and conquering much of it except for the small Kingdom of Asturias.
  • In Legend, the besieging Nadir are a horde of Fantasy Counterpart Culture Mongols.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Orcs are the Horde by nature and will form bandit gangs on their own, but Sauron is able to beat them into a more disciplined army. His Orcs are "officially" known by numbers rather than names, have rules for processing prisoners found sneaking into Mordor, and are forced to work along with Mordor's various client states as part of The Empire.
    • The Easterling nations, especially the Balchoth and the Wainriders, are largely inspired by the Hordes from the East variant and invade Middle-Earth in alliance with Sauron. They are however well-armed and well-organized, not in any way inferior to Gondor's professional military.
  • The Lost Regiment series has the Tugars, 10-foot-tall hairy man-eating Mongol Expys, who are engaged in an unending journey around their world (which lacks oceans), feasting on the various human peoples who have been brought there by a Negative Space Wedgie before moving on, expecting the population of the "cattle" to replenish before their next circle. They ride vicious horse-like beasts (with two rows of sharp teeth) and demand that the human nations pick a certain number of their people to sacrifice. Later books reveal other hordes (the Merki and the Bantag) making the same circle around the world but at different latitudes. They belong to the same species but are warring with one another over territory and food. The Bantag also have 20th-century-level technology.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen: The Pannion Domin is an aggressive, theocratic empire that employs two main military forces. Their main army is composed of well-ordered legions. Their other force, the Tenescowri, fits here instead. The peasant conscripts of the Domin, the Tenescowri have minimal training and organization and are given no supplies at all from their superiors, including food. This leaves them starved into a state of near madness and they're perfectly happy to charge even the most well-defended enemy positions in the hopes of getting food by looting or other means. They're not very effective individually, but since the Domin can field hundreds of thousands of them from conquered territory, they don't have to be. They serve the main army well as cannon fodder... and emergency rations.
  • Planet of Exile: The planet of Werel is inhabited both by a relatively civilized agrarian society, and a bunch of nomadic tribes. At the end of each fall (the year on Werel is sixty times as long as on Earth), the farmers gather in walled Cities to wait out the long winter, while the nomads head for the warmer south through their land. Normally, they are too weak to do anything besides kill and rob some stragglers who are yet to pack up and head for safety, but this time, a chief had arisen uniting them all, and creating a host powerful enough to besiege and loot the Cities.
  • Quest for Fire: The default human society in the setting (Paleolithic Asia).
  • The Reynard Cycle: One of the many reasons that Vulp Vora is so dangerous is due to it being inhabited by the Chimera, who breed to the point where they must expel a portion of their population in this fashion. Their "neighbors" the Calvarians build their fortresses near choke points in order to defend themselves against these.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The wildlings are a number of disparate barbarian cultures (including regular human tribes, more savage folk such as cannibals and cave-dwellers, and immense, nonhuman giants) from the far north of Westeros, who regularly raid their southern neighbors for tools, wealth and women and are periodically united by charismatic leaders into large armies to try to push past the Wall and conquer the southern kingdoms. They're certainly perceived as this by the people in the Seven Kingdoms, though there might be something else they should be fearing more...
    • The Dothraki are prairie nomads who roam the grasslands of the Dothraki Sea in great hordes called khalasars, each led by a Khal (which is, of course, only one letter away from "Khan"). They view city-dwellers and agriculturists with deep contempt, and many great khalasars have stormed out of the Dothraki Sea to hurl themselves against cities and kingdoms, tear down their walls, slaughter their defenders, carry their people off to slavery, and leave their ruins to be swallowed by the grasses of the prairies and become part of their constantly expanding roaming grounds. Their usual tactic is to just hurl a wave of screaming, bare-chested riders against their foes — they use neither infantry nor armor — but their sheer aggression has usually allowed this to work quite successfully. Khalasars are also heavily dependent on the will of their Khal to hold them together, though, and if the Khal dies or grow weak the horde quickly begins to disintegrate as its more powerful warriors begin to fight for dominance and lead off their own splinter tribes.
    • The Ironborn consider raiding and pillaging a way of life, and for generations were a bane to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. With the Seven Kingdoms now ravaged by civil war, they’re scheming to take their old traditions right back up where they left off.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Star Wars Legends continuity has a few:
    • In the Expanded Universe's distant past, the Mandalorians were both this trope and a Proud Warrior Race, a fairly clear Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Mongols ("Mandalore" essentially means "Khan"), and a constant threat to the Jedi and the Republic. Heck, they even fight mounted — on giant quadrupedal war droids, that is.
    • In New Jedi Order, the Yuuzhan Vong start out as a space-faring version of the Horde, pouring in from beyond the edges of the galaxy and sweeping aside everything in their path. Particular attention is given to their wave tactics and obsession with dying in glorious combat. After taking Coruscant midway through the series and becoming the galaxy's dominant political power, they morph into The Empire.
  • Victoria has a loose coalition of rampaging Apocalypse Punk gangs ravaging the After the End Midwest, who in turn are fought by the effectively neo-Nazi militiamen of the Landwehr. From the good guys' POV, this is strictly Evil Versus Evil—though they actually tend to favor the Nazis, the barbarians are that bad (never mind the fact that the "good guys" are themselves white nationalists).
  • The Wandering Inn: When the Horns of Hammerad, and a few other adventurer groups, explore a recent discovered dungeon, they, accidentally, free an Eldritch Abomination that unleashes a small horde of undead on them, and afterwards on the nearby located city, resulting the the death of a few hundreds.
  • War World: The nomad tribes fill this role towards the settled farming societies. The HaBandari and the Saurons manipulate the nomads strategically, driving them back and forth across the steppe into each others' territories. In Blood Vengance when some of the allied tribes slip past the Sauron Citadel into the undefended Shangri-La Valley, one of the Bandari compares them to packs of ravenous wolves and the valley's unarmed farmers as sheep.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Trollocs are a race of bio-engineered horrors built by the forces of the Dark to fight the Light in the last cataclysmic war between light and dark in the world's cyclic history.
    • The Aiel tend to be viewed as this, particularly in Cairhein, though they're actually Proud Warrior Race Guys. And girls.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Mance Rayder's wilding army is bearing down on the Wall in an attempt to escape the White Walkers.
    • The Dothraki hordes.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Orcs are primitive and wild, but under Adar's command, they can pull effectual war tactics.
  • The New Adventures of Robin Hood: In "Rage of the Mongols", a village on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest is regularly raided by a horde of Mongols. Robin and his band rescue a maiden from the village who has been kidnapped, angering the Mongols.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The Clans can seem like this at first glance, but unlike most examples they're more technologically advanced than the Kingdoms and Empires of the Inner Sphere. Largely because the Inner Sphere nuked themselves back to the 20th century after the Star League broke up while the Clans are descended from the Star League's self-exiled military and adopted a form of ritual warfare that minimized damage to their infrastructure and scientist and technician castes. Their objective when they invaded was actually to rebuild the Star League, under the rule of their Social Darwinist Warrior caste. As is, some of the Clans managed to carve out small empires, such as the Ghost Bear Dominion, Raven Alliance, Clan Protectorate (Sea Fox and Nova Cat remnants), and Wolf Empire.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • There are two common varieties of the Horde in most settings: Goblinoids and Orcs. The former (particularly Hobgoblins) provide disciplined and brutal armies, the latter swarms of screaming savages.
    • Somewhat subverted in Eberron, where two different Hordes (the monsters of Droaam and the goblinoids of Darguun) have settled down and are trying to become The Empire, with varying degrees of success. Darguun is actually a former Empire trying to get back on its feet after a demonic invasion — in a major departure from expectation, they were in no way responsible for said invasion, and went a long ways in preventing its recurrence. There is also Valenar, a nation created by Mongol-esque elven mercenaries, which plays things a bit more straight.
  • GURPS Mass Combat is designed to simulate hordes of fighters on both sides. The first example given in 4th edition rules is ninjas that jump off dragons and float to the ground on giant kites.
  • Rifts: The Sub-Demon race known as Brodkil often carry this role in North America, but there are also plenty of human bandits such as the Pecos Empire. The Southern half of South America is commonly beset by a race known as the Larhold, the Japanese Oni have made a comeback, and the Hourne Pirates ensure that the seas aren't safe, either. But in Soviet Russia, the Hordes civilize you! The ten Warlords and their armies of Cyborg soldiers hold most of the power.
  • Traveller: The Vargr are stereotyped as this; while they're capable of building starships that requires a great deal of organization and can form city-states and nations, they're still prone to far more instability then humans.
  • Warhammer:
    • The Greenskins (a.k.a. Orcs and Goblins) take to this trope more than any other race. They're an entire species of vicious Blood Knights who live only to fight and are just barely advanced enough to fashion crude weapons and "tame" large, nasty animals for war. The closest to organized they get is when a particularly nasty warlord can force a bunch of tribes together into a giant Waaagh! and head on a bloodthirsty rampage towards the nearest civilization. These hordes are just barely kept together by the warlord's force of will, and those that don't dash themselves to pieces against particularly tough targets usually only hang together as long as the boss can keep a steady stream of interesting fights coming — if momentum starts to slack, the Waaagh! quickly disintegrates as bored Orcs start turning on each other or simply wander off.
    • The Beastmen, savages who live to tear down every scrap of civilization they can find out of spiteful, semi-religious hatred, on those rare occasions they can organize from scattered, animalistic warbands into army-sized, animalistic mobs of berserk warriors, bloodthirsty minotaurs and whatever forest monsters were lured by the promise of prey and fighting, which then sweep out of the forests to raze, burn and pillage every town, farm and city in their path.
    • The Ogres are usually not this trope — they have their own kingdoms in the mountains — but they're more than happy to form the Horde if they want food and weapons and their usual ways of getting it as payment for mercenary work are too slow.
    • The Marauders of Chaos, Daemon-worshipping mutant barbarians and their monstrous allies, regularly come down from the cold northern wastes seeking to burn civilization to the ground in the name of their dark gods. A typical Chaos invasion is formed when a powerful warlord manages to unite a band of warriors by hook or by crook and lead them on a warpath through the Chaos Wastes, accreting defeated tribes, glory-hungry barbarians, roving marauders, Beastmen, monsters and every dark thing it encounters until it grows into a roaming tide of killers and beasts sacking and burning everything it finds, at which point it inevitably heads towards southern lands to crush civilization underfoot or be destroyed trying.
    • The Skaven, who pour from their sprawling underground warrens like a tide of vermin, overwhelming their enemies through sheer numbers of Battle Thralls, the brute force of twisted Rat Ogres, overwhelming gunfire, and foul sorcery-bred plagues.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Orks, who are Warhammer's Greenskins IN SPACE!, just with more guns, stolen tanks, badly controlled psychics and crude approximations of starships and Humongous Mecha. They were originally created as living weapons for an ancient war, and as a result live for nothing but fighting — they conquer, raze and rampage their way through the galaxy because it quite literally never occurs to them to do anything else.
    • Certain Chaos Space Marine warbands, usually the ones that worship Khorne. The rest maintain the ordered, regimented structure of the Astartes too much to be this trope.
    • Most non-Traitor Marine Chaos armies — a.k.a. the Lost and the Damned — whether savage pirate fleets, hordes of twisted mutants, shambling tides of festering plague zombies, vast mobs of corrupted peasants, or whatever else, are very good matches for this trope, swamping their enemies through wave upon wave of expendable mutants and cultists backed by Chaos sorcerers, monstrous Eldritch Abominations and the occasional Traitor Marine warband.
    • The Tyranids, a seething mass of living weapons whose sole goal is to land on a planet, eat everything on it, use those resources to create more living weapons, and then repeat the process. Their favored tactic is to throw unending waves of small creatures at something until it proves that it requires a more powerful creature to kill.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar:
    • Chaos warbands, regardless of their specific type, tend to take the form of vast tides of mutants, barbarians, monsters and daemons united only by the will of ruthless leaders and their shared desire to burn the Mortal Realms to the ground.
    • The forces of Destruction — the Grots (goblins), Orruks (orcs), Ogors (ogres), Troggoths (trolls) and Gargants (giants) — are a loose conglomeration of warlike, aggressive and often rather stupid monsters and barbarians who spend their lives merrily rampaging around the Realms, throwing themselves against every impressive force or bastion of civilization they can find and leaving ruins and charnel in their wake. Unlike Chaos, they're not particularly intent on destroying the Realms, and instead view fighting as an end in and of itself and see little value in anything that doesn't involve battling, looting or eating.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • This is a common depiction of the Nords by their enemies (especially the races of Mer (Elves), who have been at constant odds with the Nords since time immemorial), along with being a Barbarian Tribe. The truth is somewhere in the middle, however, as the Nords do love to battle and can be viewed as uncultured by the Crystal Spires and Togas Altmer or Ancient Rome-inspired Imperials, but they are also lovers of music and mead with a strong bardic tradition and a deeply spiritual and traditional people with a strong sense of honor (too strong, in some cases). The Nords themselves don't seem particularly offended by this image and are even known to play it up for intimidation.
    • The ancient Atmorans, ancestors to the Nords, also fit the trope. It is said that they had no knowledge of agriculture and survived off of hunting, a way of life which likely encouraged their ceaseless warfare. They also did not have a written language until they came to Tamriel (where they adopted one from the elves, blending it with Atmoran language principles). From the perspective of the Elves (who settled Tamriel long before the Atmorans cross the sea), the Atmorans really were illiterate, elf-hating barbarians who swept in from their frozen homeland hell bent to Rape, Pillage, and Burn everything the Elves had built.
    • While normally Gentle Giant Noble Savages who lead solitary (or small groups at most), nomadic lives herding their mammoths, the Giants have been known to form into clans numbering in the hundreds at different points throughout history. The ancient Giant Clan led by Sinmur the Terrible was one such example. Sinmur led an army of hundreds of Giants against the forces of the Atmoran Ysgramor and his 500 Companions. Both sides suffered massive casualties, but the war ended when Ysgramor personally slew Sinmur.
  • Europa Universalis: Divine Wind turns all of Central Asia over to these guys, with the particularly nasty twist that they automatically go to war with every neighbor every five years. The Golden Horde and Timurids are especially fearsome, while the minor hordes (Nogai, Qara Koyunlu, Kazakh, Chagatai, Oirats) are... less so.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: Although Caesar's Legion styles itself as a post-apocalyptic Roman Empire, Caesar will privately admit that his forces are closer to the Gallic barbarians than true Legionnaires. Hence his interest in the titular city, a New Rome that will provide a proper capital for his empire.
  • Final Fantasy XI: The Orcs are certainly this, being a Barbarian Tribe. The Shadow Lord-owned Beastmen Confederate is also like this, if only because most of the Beastmen were forced into it.
  • Gears of War takes place on a world where humanity is fighting a losing war against the Locust Horde, a subterranean race of humanoid, hulking, vaguely reptilian monsters who have emerged to claim the surface world for themselves and are bent on killing every last living human to take it. They are brutish, ruthless, come in vast numbers, and are single-mindedly devoted to their Queen... but are also disciplined, tactically intelligent, and technologically on par with the COG (the sole surviving human government), being deliberately intended to subvert classic Horde tropes.
  • Guild Wars: The Charr were originally depicted as this. Violent and pitiless, they swept down from the north, pillaging any city they found and sentencing any captured humans to be sacrificed or thrown into gladiator pits. Their onslaught destroyed two of three human Tyrian kingdoms and left Ascalon a barren wasteland for generations. Later installments gave more nuance to their history, revealing the Charr were the original inhabitants of Ascalon until humans drove them out and that their religion was created and controlled by a fallen human god seeking revenge. With the fall of the religion and the reclamation of their homeland, the Charr have modernized and formed into organized armies.
  • The Horde, in which you defend a little town from... well, the Horde.
  • Hyrule Warriors: There was a horde of monsters living out in the Gerudo Desert, largely content to mind their own business... until a freshly resurrected Ganondorf showed up, beat the everliving crap out of some to them and declared that the survivors worked for him now.
  • League of Legends has a neat Reconstruction of this idea with the armies of Noxus. One of the core pillars of Noxus is dominance through individualism and personal glory, and as such their armies lack uniformity, both in tactics (at most arranging attacks in rough squares before devolving into one-on-one skirmishes) and in actual uniform (aside from the empire's red and black colors, it's all fair game for what any soldier will choose to fight with). This gives the empire its immeasurably expansive dominance, but this also puts them in direct disadvantage to their neighboring rival of Demacia, who in turn are established as having the best army in all Runeterra, not through numbers, but incredible coordination and tactical knowledge.
  • Left 4 Dead: The Infected, and its sequel, Left 4 Dead 2.
  • In Mount & Blade: Phantasy Calradia, the Orcs of the Bleeding Throat Clan have access to huge armies, thousands strong, and only one city. They usually steamroll across the eastern plains and the Khergits are overwhelmed trying to stop them. Ironically, the Khergits are an Expy of a real life example of this trope.
  • In Shuyan Saga, the Guer are invading the Five Kingdoms, bringing death and destruction wherever they go. Given that their leader's name is Mongolian (Ganbaatar), the Guer are presumably inspired by the Mongol invasions of China (of which the Five Kingdoms are essentially a fantasy version).
  • Siege of Avalon: The Sha'ahoul, a nomadic race of human/orc hybrids who believe that any permanent structure or farming is harming the world of Eurale and must be destroyed. Imagine their surprise when one fine day they stumble on the seven kingdoms, who do all that and more. They gather a massive horde and attack. The kingdoms' only hope is the fortress of Avalon, the only thing that stands in the way of the Sha'ahoul. The horde's leader Mithras is determined to raze the offending structure and starts the titular siege.
  • Stellaris added Marauders in its Apocalypse expansion, enclaves of Space People who never expand beyond their starter systems, but will regularly shake down neighbors for tribute, accept bribes from star nations to Rape, Pillage, and Burn their rivals, or hire themselves out as Private Military Contractors. They're more than a match for any early-game fleets, but become irrelevant by the midgame... unless a Great Khan emerges to unify them into a massive Horde that will proceed to aggressively expand as far as it can. Said Khan is a Visionary Villain who wants their people to become more than barbarians, and if the Horde is successful enough and weathers the inevitable Succession Crisis after the Khan's death, it may indeed become a stable star nation, or even a federation of nations, exactly as the Khan envisioned.
  • Team Fortress 2: Gray Mann's robots spawn in large swarms in the Mann Vs Machine game mode. Exaggerated with the Ghost Town Halloween Event, where the aptly named Wave 666 consists of 911 robots and 9 tanks, and additional Spies and Snipers which spawn for as long as you play, potentially bringing the total to well over a thousand.
  • Total War:
    • In the Rome: Total War Expansion Pack Barbarian Invasion, you can take command of a horde and Rape, Pillage, and Burn the civilized world, or try to repel and subjugate the hordes as the more civilized factions. The horde factions even have a distinct mechanic in that they aren't destroyed if their last city is captured - instead they immediately spawn several armies that can proceed to loot enemy cities, or claim one as a new homeland and settle again. Which can lead to a Disaster Dominoes situation where one barbarian horde displaces another, which invades another horde faction's territory and displaces them in turn...
    • Medieval II: Total War has the scripted Mongol Invasion around 1214, in which army after army of elite Horse Archers led by high-Command, max-Dread generals appear on the eastern edge of the campaign map to exterminate everything in their path. They're bad enough, but then around 1365, the Timurids show up to do it again, except with War Elephants as well.
    • In Thera, a Medieval II mod, a number of factions qualify. The Uruk Dominion is made up of various bestial races once enslaved by the Romuli, including the titular Uruks, the canine Lykan, and fish/lizard-like Reptarri — the faction has limited access to cavalry and siege units, but their infantry are Lightning Bruisers with huge charge bonuses. The Kukulcan empire is a Mesoamerican themed version of this, consisting of many tribes united by their worship of the savage god Kukulcan and their hatred of everybody else, especially the white man who has turned up on Mesocalan shores, with plenty of Human Sacrifice to boot. The Gaelic Nations are again a human version centred around Scottish, Irish and general Celtic barbarian tribes, with hordes of screaming warriors with big swords and covered with woad... occasionally nothing but woad.
    • Total War: Attila expands upon the earlier Barbarian Invasion's horde mechanic, allowing an army in horde mode to function as a city of sorts, building upgrades and recruiting on the move.
    • Total War: Warhammer:
      • Horde factions are a group of nations distinguished by being unable to hold cities; instead, their armies function as makeshift settlements, granting them basic building trees to allow them to recruit units. This, combined with game mechanics that reward winning streaks and punish inaction, encourages players to keep moving, waging war with anyone they meet and leaving ruin and desolations in their wake. Fittingly, the main horde factions are all bands of warmongering, vicious barbarians who fully embrace this trope in the lore — the Savage Orc tribes, the Beastmen and the Norscans and Warriors of Chaos.
      • Rogue Armies — minor, non-playable hordes — often come across as this from the point of view of settled factions, being motley collections of barbarians, pirates, monsters and roving warmongers wandering their way through the world and waging war on whoever they encounter. Special mention goes to the Abominations, a mixed horde of monstrous Beastman units with Chaos Forsaken, Skaven monsters and ghouls thrown in for good measure, and Vashnaar's Conquest, a mixed warband of Chaos Warriors and Dark Elves waging war in the name of Chaos.
      • An accidental version is known as the Ordertide, where the good factions ally with each other in late game and can now send massive armies to each other's aid, obliterating the evil factions (and essentially the inverse of what happens in canon).
  • Tyranny: The Scarlet Chorus is an army of whatever maniacs they can find either tough enough to survive conscription, or downright loony enough to volunteer. Their "strategy" is generally to inelegantly rush any objective, promote the survivors, and refill ranks by conscripting the conquered. Their weaponry starts out as mostly whatever they have on hand when they join (usually farming implements; hoes, pitchforks, and the like), and is improved by picking up whatever looks handy from dead enemies. Or dead allies. Or anything else nearby that was recently murdered and doesn't have too tight of a death grip on that +1 Sword.
  • Warcraft:
    • The Horde used to be a straight example of the trope during the first two games, when they were pawns of the demonic Burning Legion. But by Warcraft III, Warchief Thrall helped the orcs rediscover their shamanistic heritage, and they become more of a Noble Savage race, then went on to incorporate the Darkspear Trolls and Tauren into the Horde, turning it into The Alliance (not to be confused with the Horde's old enemies, the human-led Alliance of the Eastern Kingdoms). By World of Warcraft, the Horde has become an Anti-Hero Team of imperiled or outcast races, including free-willed undead, magic-addicted elves shunned by their former allies, goblin refugees, and more.
    • There are, however, factions antagonistic to both the Horde and the Alliance that fit the trope much better: The Undead Scourge, the aforementioned Burning Legion, the minions of the Old Gods, Quillboar or Centaur tribes, and so on.
    • Several offshoots of the original orcish Horde still cling to warmongering for warmongering's sake, such as Rend Blackhand's Dark Horde, the Fel Horde on Outland who still bear the curse of demonic blood, Garrosh Hellscream's attempt to ban the "lesser races" and create an orc-only True Horde, and as of Warlords of Draenor, the Steampunk Iron Horde, Garrosh's effort to lead an invasion of demon-free orcs from a parallel timeline.
    • In the Mists of Pandaria expansion, there is a group of anthropomorphic yaks, known as the Yaungol, who you can probably tell are based off the Mongols. They fight much like them as well, as a ruthless horde.

  • Drowtales has the Nidraa'chal, who actively employed demons to possess commoners for Cannon Fodder while fighting the Val'Sharen. There's also the Black Sun, a group of tribes that subsist by raiding cities and settlements, and operate similarly to Mongol hordes in the sense that they are heavily decentralized and will absorb captured enemies into their ranks, and several Black Sun tribes will band together for particularly tough fights.
  • Homestuck: Troll civilisation is like this — all adult trolls, all of whom are conscripted into the military, have been banished from the troll homeworld in order to conquer planets for their Empress, which they do so with brutal efficiency. The troll homeworld is used exclusively for raising baby trolls to adulthood, and the children are encouraged to kill and deceive one another to survive. The kids' antics look pretty dark to us viewers, until we discover through Mindfang's diaries what kind of horrible lives adult trolls are expected to live, casting their actions in an altogether more innocent light.

    Web Original 
  • The Gamer's Alliance: Four demon hordes, led by their respective dukes and duchesses, settle into Yamato after the Cataclysm and scheme against one another.
  • Guts and Sass: The Drifalcand are an unorganized, pantheistic, (heterosexually) orgiastic invading horde who conceive of conquer as an end, not a means. They're kind of like a human natural disaster: they destroy, they move on.
  • Hamster's Paradise: During the second harmster world war, the Bruteriders — a loose coalition of barbarian tribes who specialize in warring from the backs of powerful animals — are forced into a united force by a powerful warlord and begin a campaign of conquest and destruction against the other harmster civilizations, aided in this by their recent domestication of War Elephants. They are, however, entirely dependent on their leader for unity, and when she dies in battle they quickly fragment into a chaotic jumble of warring splinter factions.
  • The Wanderer's Library: In The Floating Armada, a vast tide of human, demihuman and monstrous peoples is coming out of the land of Yagron, crushing all resistance in its path, mounted on floating islands and assembled by an orc warlord out of every tribe and band of monsters and barbarians in his land.

    Real Life 
  • Although the victims of a real world raiding culture will perceive their attackers as this, it should go without saying that people like the Vikings or Mongols were more complicated than The Horde.
    • The Mongols were actually more organized and disciplined than popular portrayals tend to show them to be, part of why they won so many battles. Not that it was any comfort to their enemies, since they had a very mobile army and looked larger than they were because several reports came into their enemies headquarters from different places at the same time. Each warrior also had two or three horses so that he could switch between them for long journeys and not exhaust them, making the army look much larger. And once they were done conquering, the Mongols ended up one of the world's largest empires.
      • The word "horde" comes from Mongolian ordo/orda/ordu/ordon, and originally referred to a tent or campsite; it became associated with the modern connotations of "horde" thanks to the Mongol armies making frequent use of mobile camps during campaigns.
    • The Vikings of course did not spend all of their time a-viking, and were capable of living as peaceful a home life as anyone else in medieval Europe. It should also be noted that in some cases the Vikings had better hygiene than the people they were raiding. The Vikings, in fact, are one of the reasons of the first medieval renaissance in Europe; they settled all around the Continent and on most islands, and their advances in seafaring ultimately connected Europe through trade, establishing the trade routes of the North that helped shift the balance of power of the continent from the Mediterranean to Septentrional Europe, as well as opening a new route from Crimea now that the Mediterranean was a contested sea. And as a matter of fact, the most commonly accepted etymology for the word "viking" is that it originally meant a short trip and became a euphemism for a (typically seaborne) raid. A Viking, to the Scandinavians of The Viking Age, was therefore basically a raider of any ethnicity (one famous band of Vikings in the sagas, the Jomsvikings, was based in what is now Northern Germany), whereas non-raiding Scandinavians wouldn't have been referred to as Vikings.
    • Attila and the Huns were an... interesting example. On the one hand, they are easily the most archetypal real-life Horde, and their invasion of Europe, forcing steppe and Germanic peoples before them and into the Roman Empire, strongly ingrained itself as this in European culture — later historians even took to describing them as downright apelike, orc-like subhuman savages. Their motives were also pure Horde, as they are assumed to have started their invasions to obtain plunder and political power, and spent the better part of a century sacking their way through Europe, western Asia and the Middle East. On the other hand, they were a complex people in their own right, and made beautiful jewelry and precious artifacts of their own — in fact, their raids on the Germans and Romans are seen by some as less of a Horde-like plundering of things they couldn't make themselves and more as a harvesting of raw resources. By the end, under Attila, they abandoned the nomadic raider lifestyle (most such peoples do — it's not very sustainable in the long term) and formed their own empire in Eastern Europe, although like most swiftly-built empires it depended on the charisma of its leader to hold itself together: when Attila died, the Hunnic Empire died with him.
  • Many of the Native American tribes of the Interior Plains and Southwest United States/Northwest Mexico were seen as this by European/American/Mexican settlers. The Comanches, Apaches, and Sioux were the peoples most commonly seen as a "horde" due to their mixture of a nomadic lifestyle with particularly aggressive and territorial disposition, though other tribal groups such as the Arikara, Kiowa, and Pawnee also fit this description. As with most "horde" peoples, this view of these peoples was often inaccurate and usually imprecise: the only reason that the Comanches, Apaches, and Sioux were seen as hordes is because they were the few tribal groups to confederate to any real degree, and these groups mainly did so only in response to colonial expansion. Without singularly strong leaders such as Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Cochise, or Buffalo Hump, such conglomerations generally broke down into family groups or small warbands.
  • The Ur-Example of the "horde" in the "civilized" consciousness are the "Umman Manda," literally translated as "horde from the unknown." This was a term used by the Akkadian-speaking civilizations of Mesopotamia (such as Akkad, Babylon, and Assyria) to describe the nomadic peoples of Central Asia to their immediate east, who would occasionally pour into the region through the Caucasus or Zagros mountains and wreak havoc on settled peoples. The Umman Manda are first prominently mentioned in the Cuthaen Legend of the Babylonian king Naram-Sin, who defeated several hordes of them around 2250 B.C.E. The exact identity of the Umman Manda appears to have shifted based upon who the invading nomads were: Hurrians, Gutians, Hyksos, and Cimmerians all appear to have worn the mantle at some point during the Bronze Age. The title would eventually be most commonly associated with the Scythian peoples, who as the first people to successfully ride and conduct war entirely on horseback (previous nomadic hordes had used chariots) proved a major problem for settled peoples in the early Iron Age, with one horde killing an Assyrian king in battle and another making it all the way to Egypt before being defeated. The final fate of the Umman Manda is attributed to Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, who claimed in the Cyrus Cylinder to have "made all the Umman-Manda bow at his feet." Of course, if one takes Herodotus at his word, Cyrus himself was ultimately killed in battle by the Scythian queen Tomyris, so rumors of their demise were likely greatly exaggerated.
  • Common perceptions on the infamous /b/ seem to veer into this territory, particularly when the Wretched Hive shuts down.
  • Nazi Germany worked very successfully to portray the Red Army as this from the first day of the German invasion of the USSR in World War II. In the first six months, it worked to Germany's interests to portray their setbacks and failures as being the result of a ruthless Soviet Scorched-Earth strategynote  and Endless Asiatic Hordes overwhelming The Superior Germanic Ubermensch with the sheer weight of their depravity, bestial bloodlust, and numbers. The emphasis on the "Endless" part was partly because Soviet strategic reserves really were larger than German ones (largely due to WWI-losses and willingness to use women in the economy and military), but also because the Germans simply refused to believe that the Soviets could do something so sophisticated as carefully husbanding their resources and concentrating their only-slightly-greater numbers at several critical points. Some post-war memoirs, such as those of the infamous Erich von Manstein, seriously claim that the Soviets had them outnumbered by ten-to-one in late 1942 when in fact Soviet numerical superiority at the time was barely 2:1 (his lesser-known subordinate Friedrich von Mellenthin didn't speculate on exact ratios but was also firmly convinced of a greater ratio than the real one). Invoking the trope one last time, during the endless retreats of 1942-5 many German officers justified their Scorched-Earth tactics in the occupied Soviet Union by claiming that the Soviets would have stolen all the food and clothing and destroyed all the homes of their own people if the Germans hadn't done it first.
  • And of course one must take into account the fact that Nazi Germany itself seemed to be this for any country it invaded. Especially in the early years of the war when they experienced great success and were rampaging across most of Europe, from France to Norway and the East.
  • Any invading army looks like the Horde if you are in the way.
  • The People's Crusade in the late 1000s' might as well be the poster child of how inefficient an actual loosely organized horde army would be. They were basically a bunch of peasants riled up into taking arms and marching to retake the Holy Land of Jerusalem - resulting in a marching horde of tens of thousands of unskilled fighters (which included women and children) bumbling their way through Europe: their basically nonexistant logistical supply chain made them constantly run out of resources and resort to pillaging allied cities for supplies, which gave them absolutely no allies or popular support, massacred jewish people in European communities for little to no reason, and once they reached the Middle East and were faced with a well-organized army, they were completely decimated.


Alternative Title(s): Horde