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Vanilla Unit

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A playable unit with no special abilities. In Collectible Card Games, they can be recognized by their lack of rules text. In Role-Playing Games, they can be gear that does nothing but offer a flat stat boost. They can also be something that does nothing but directly help you reach the game's goal. For instance, in a game about Scoring Points, an item that only gives you a flat sum of points is a Vanilla Unit.

Vanilla units may seem boring, and they indeed tend to be Boring, but Practical if they're playable at all, but there are still plenty of reasons to include them in a game. They're useful for keeping the level of complexity manageable, especially if a lot of units will appear in a match.note  Sometimes they're intended as easy-to-use units for beginners, and progression in the game involves replacing them with better ones. Sometimes they're there to serve as a useful basis for comparisons, or to challenge players to decide when the vanilla unit is better than a unit with worse stats and an ability. If a game wants its units to be comparable in quality, there may be a vanilla unit with high base stats.

Vanillas are also a simple way to show you what to expect of a game's factions: the offence-oriented faction gets Glass Cannon vanilla monsters, the defence-oriented faction gets Stone Wall vanilla monsters, the most monster-friendly faction gets the strongest vanilla monsters, and so on. Also, the lack of rules text means a lot of room for Flavour Text.

In games where you can theoretically use nothing but vanilla units, doing so is usually mediocre at best. After all, it's not a recipe for fun gameplay if the optimal strategy is to spam vanillas instead of trying to take advantage of cool powers or synergies.note  Additionally, vanilla units are vulnerable to Power Creep, leaving them as Low Tier Letdowns outclassed by more complex units. There is an exception for the vanilla playable character, however: sometimes these are the hardest to use because they have no special abilities to rely on, while still being good in the hands of an experienced player thanks to their good stats.

Many games, such as Collectible Card Games, also feature some of these variations on vanilla creatures:

  • French vanilla: A unit with no abilities other than keyword abilities.
  • Virtual vanilla: A unit that has an ability that triggers when you play it, and is essentially a vanilla after that point.
  • Virtual French vanilla: A unit that has an ability that triggers when you play it, and is essentially a French vanilla after that point. This sort of character stretches the definition of what a vanilla is, so it's rare for them to be considered as a "vanilla" in the first place.

These are also suitable for keeping the complexity manageable, while being more exciting and interesting to players. French vanillas are also helpful for showing off common abilities in a simple way.

Sister Tropes for non-playable characters include The Goomba (often a pitiful enemy with no special moves), Mooks (which tend to be rather basic enemies) and Smash Mook (who are powerful, but use very simple strategies/attacks). Vanilla units commonly form the basis for a Zerg Rush and/or a Redshirt Army.

See also Unskilled, but Strong, Boring, but Practical and Simple, yet Awesome. Compare Awesome, but Impractical, Jack of All Stats and Master of None. Compare Power Nullifier, which can sometimes turn other units into vanillas. Not to be confused with Vanilla Protagonist, which focuses on the narrative. See also Muggles for a narrative parallel to this trope.


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    Tabletop Games 
Board Games
  • 7 Wonders:
    • Each Wonder has a unique ability, with the exception of Giza, which just gives you Victory Points. This property was carried over to the two-player spin-off Duel. Most other wonders are virtual vanillas whose stages either just provide points or have a one-shot effect that triggers immediately upon being played.
    • The Leaders Expansion Pack features some Leaders with no effect other than giving a fixed number of Victory Points.
    • Duel's Pantheon Expansion Pack features Aphrodite, a vanilla god who does nothing but grant 9 Victory Points.
    • Most buildings have some kind of effect, but the blue ones only give you a flat sum of points (and may chain into another blue building). Defied by Agora, which gives Duel's blue buildings the additional effect of boosting the efficiency of Senators.
  • Abyss:
    • Lords of the Farmer guild are characterized by having no abilities (other than sometimes holding keys), but also above-average point values. The Leviathan Expansion Pack does introduce a couple of non-vanilla Farmers, however.
    • Many lords are virtual vanillas who have an ability that triggers when they're played, and then never again.
    • In the Conspiracy spin-off, all Lords except the key Lords are virtual vanillas whose abilities only come into play when they're placed into your tableau. This helps streamline the game and compensate for the complexity of the tableau building itself. Additionally, there's a Location that's worth a flat 7 points, and several virtual vanilla locations that only have an immediate action and a point value.
  • Dice Forge: Many dice faces do nothing but give you Glory Points whenever you roll them. Also, some of the high-value Heroic Feats do nothing but give you a fixed sum of points.
  • Dominion:
  • Koryŏ: You "control" a family of politicians by controlling the plurality of its members. This lets you use the family's power during the game, and gets you its Influence Points at the end of the game. The Merchant family has no special power, but also has the highest end-of-game value.
  • Pandemic: The Generalist has no special ability, but gets 5 actions per turn instead of the usual 4. In Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, she also has four upgrade slots instead of the usual 2.
  • Parks: The Nightfall Expansion Pack adds parks with effects like "you may reserve or buy another park" and "you gain two suns" when you buy them. This retroactively highlights the original parks' positions as vanillas, as they do nothing but give you points when you buy them.
  • In The Quacks of Quedlinburg, most ingredients have an effect in addition to filling the pot, which every ingredient does. The exception is the orange Pumpkin, whose only function is filling the pot by one space. To compensate, it's the cheapest chip in the game. The Herb Witches Expansion Pack adds a type of orange chip at the opposite extreme — it's the most expensive chip, and it fills the pot by a whopping six spaces.
  • Res Arcana:
    • All Monuments have a power. The exception is the Great Pyramid, which compensates by being the only one worth 3 points instead of 1 or 2. Additionally, the Obelisk is a virtual vanilla that gets you 6 essences when you buy it, but does nothing after that point.
    • The Nightingale is a creature that's worth a Victory Point, but has no power.
  • Space Base has a lot of ships that just give you points when they're activated.
  • Splendor Duel:
    • Most cards give subsequent cards a Reduced Resource Cost, and may have an additional ability. A few don't, but offer higher point values to compensate.
    • Out of the four nobles, three of them have an ability and are worth 2 points. The last one has no ability, but is worth 3 points instead.
  • Sushi Go!:
    • Most cards are scored based on some kind of condition, such as the Sashimi being worth 10 points per group of three, with any excess ones being worthless. The exception is the Nigiri cards, which are worth a flat sum, though they can be boosted by a Wasabi card, which specifically synergizes with them. If you're playing Sushi Go! Party, some menus even include Nigiri and exclude Wasabi.
    • The takeout box lets you flip any number of previously played cards and makes them worth a flat 2 points.
  • Villainous (Ravensburger) has a few Allies that have a Strength stat, but no additional ability. These tend to have a great cost-to-Strength ratio. There are also quite a few virtual vanilla Allies and Heroes with an ability that only does something when the card is played. This keeps the complexity manageable when there are numerous of these things on your board.
  • Most birds in Wingspan have some kind of ability, but a few (such as the Wild Turkey) don't. These tend to be expensive, high-value birds that are at their best in the late game, when it's too late to get much out of most abilities anyway. There are also birds with white powers, which only trigger when the bird is played, making them virtual vanillas.

Collectible Card Games

  • Cardfight!! Vanguard: In the original version of the game, Units (cards) of each rank have a maximum attack stat, which is reduced accordingly depending on the Unit's skills. In other words, a Rank 2 Unit with no skills always has an attack stat of 10000, and Rank 2 units with skills can have 9000 at the highest. Basically, it boils down to Unskilled, but Strong versus Weak, but Skilled. Most clans have at least one Vanilla unit per Rank, but it's exceptionally rare to see Rank 3 Vanilla Units, and Rank 4 doesn't have any.
  • Digimon Card Game:
    • The game has a wide variety of Vanilla Unit cards. In a game where lots of weak Digimon have beneficial effects to give to their Digivolutions, this can be a downside, but they tend to shine in two main area. 1) Vanilla Unit Digimon tend to have a higher printed DP than other cards of their level, especially 5000DP Rookies in a tier mostly consisting of 2-3000DP and 12-13000DP Megas instead of the more standard 11000DP. 2) Vanilla Unit Digimon tend to be cheaper, in terms of play cost and/or being lower-rarity.
    • There are also lots of Virtual Vanilla cards (both Digimon and Tamers) that only have effects when they are played or Digivolved, and are vanilla after that.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • There are plenty of creatures with no rules text, and a few cards that explicitly grant bonuses to creatures with no abilities. With that said, vanilla creatures became rarer as the game progressed and players wanted more interesting cards. 9 September 2022 marks the first time of there being no vanilla creatures legal in Standard. However, there are still plenty of virtual vanillas, French vanillas and virtual French vanillas.
    • "Bears" are an extremely popular vanilla card archetype named after the ever-popular original Green Grizzly Bears. They are two-mana 2/2 creatures with no abilities, which offers a great mana/power balance for this purpose and are typically considered the "weakest" creatures to be playable in a competitive deck. Creatures in this mold now exist for every color except Blue (which has creatures as one its biggest weakesses). As the game progresses, they fall well behind the power curve, but still have their uses as chump blockers and sacrifices.
    • Gigantosaurus is notable for being a big vanilla creature with a high stats-to-cost ratio — you get a statline of 10/10 for five green mana.
    • Quite a few Hydras are virtual vanillas whose only effects only come into play as they're cast.
    • Darksteel Relic is the closest the game gets to a vanilla artifact — it's indestructible, but it does nothing. The only reason it isn't a Joke Item is that many cards synergize with artifacts.
    • The Mystery Booster set added How to Keep an Izzet Mage Busy, which is kind of a vanilla sorcery — it has no effect other than returning itself to your hand when you cast it. It can be abused with effects that care about spells being cast.
    • The basic lands are the simplest lands. They can tap for a single mana of one color. That's it. No bonuses and no drawbacks. Lands with additional utility or better mana abilities come with drawbacks like entering tapped. Also you can put as many basic lands in your deck as you want, whereas you can only have four of any given nonbasic land.
  • Pokémon:
    • Most attacks have some sort of secondary effect, or at least something like conditional extra damage, but there are also a few simple ones that just deal a flat sum of damage. Some Pokémon even have no abilities other than vanilla attacks.
    • Basic energy cards are the vanillas of energy cards. They provide one energy of one type, and have no further bonuses or drawbacks. In contrast, Special Energy cards tend to have drawbacks like restrictions on what you can attach them to, or additional costs to attach them. There are also Special Energy cards that provide utility (e.g. drawing you a card) at the cost of only providing colorless energy.
  • Smash Up: The Dinosaur faction revolves around having high-powered minions at the cost of tricks/utilities. Their strongest unit King Rex exemplifies this by being the only unit in the whole game with no Effects or Talents, instead having a huge 7 power compared to most other factions' strongest at 5.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Normal Monsters are characterized by having no card text that impacts gameplay (with the exception of archetype conditions). There are numerous cards that synergize with them, however (a form of French Vanilla).

Parlour Games

  • Werewolf (1997):
    • A vanilla player has no special abilities. They can vote, and they get the appropriate factional ability if there is any, but that's it. The most basic player is the Vanilla Townie, which has no abilities. These vanillas are important because a setup full of power roles is hard to balance.
    • The Named Townie has no abilities. It's a Vanilla Townie in all but name, though the mere fact that it's named makes it easy for the player to confirm themselves as Town.
    • False roles are vanilla players who were told that they had a power.
    • There are a few power roles that interact with vanilla status, e.g. the Neapolitan (who can check if a player is vanilla) and the Vanillaiser (who can forcibly turn someone else into a vanilla player).

Tabletop RPG

  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In 1st and 2nd edition Fighters were just good at attacking and soaking up damage. They didn't have any spells or special abilities. 3rd edition added a degree of customization with a bunch of bonus feats and later editions threw in subclasses with supernatural abilities but they're still best at hitting things.
    • 3rd edition also added a series of barebone NPC classes to be assigned to the many unimportant Non-Player Character background, none of them with any special abilities of their own. The Fighters of earlier editions were replicated as Warriors, city-guard grunts that can hold their own in a fight but little else; and joined in by the Adepts, that can cast a few spells but gain none of the other spellcaster abilities; Experts, with many skill points to simulate NPC professions of varying mastery and that's it; Aristocrats, the wealthy gentry often acting as quest givers; and most infamously, Commoners, who have the worst Hit Points and skill points and precisely nothing beyond that.

War Games

  • Warhammer Fantasy: All armies include a basic type of simple infantry units — Imperial State Troops, High Elven Spearmen, Dwarf Warriors, Orc Boyz, Ogre Bulls, Chaos Marauders, etcetera — provided with middling health, decent morale, basic swords, spears and shields, and not generally much else, in contrast to more advanced — and expensive — units provided with generally better stat lines, more advanced weaponry, and more complex abilities and attacks.

    Video Games 

Card Battle Game

  • 100% Orange Juice!: Some characters like the starting cast (Kai, Marie Poppo, QP, Suguri, Sora, and Marc) do not come with Passive abilities that give them gimmicks in gameplay, so their playstyles are relatively straightforward with only their raw stats to rely on. This means that in a vacuum, aside from stats, they have no inherent benefits or drawbacks compared to characters who do have Passives, so how they perform in a lobby match entirely depends on execution and the cards you have at your disposal.
  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft:
    • There are plenty of minions with no rules text, no rules text besides a keyword, or no rules text besides a Battlecry (an ability that triggers when the minion is played from your hand).
    • The Giant archetype consists of big, expensive minions whose only ability is a cost reduction ability. While you have to exploit the cost reduction to make them worth playing (some of the costs exceed the 10 mana, the maximum number of mana crystals, making the ability mandatory to play them at all), once they hit the field, they're essentially vanillas.
    • Hearthstone's relationship with vanilla, text-less minions had shifted over the years. Early in the game's life cycle, low-to-mid-cost vanilla minions were one of the most reliable minions to play for value, but high-cost vanillas and vanillas with terrible stat distribution (such as the infamous Magma Rager) were one of the most ridiculed cards in the game. New vanilla minions with new stat spreads were often derided as "pack fillers", and it all came to its lowest point with Worgen Greasernote , a card that received so much hate it shifted Blizzard's design philosophy on new cards to be more interesting going forward. From then on, vanilla minions became a dying breed, and today the only vanilla minions that see any play are overstatted 1-cost minions, often with tribal synergy to abuse buffs, and occasionally 0-cost tribal minions.
  • Legends of Runeterra: Cithria of Cloudfield is one of the plainest units in the game, being one of the cheapest units in the game at 1-mana and having no keywords or passive effects for dynamic play. While she does have slightly higher stats than what her cost implies, 2-power and 2-health for a 1-cost card, nothing about her is really gonna be swinging the game around.
    • Any of the generic "good stats for the cost" cards with no effect. The Hulk is probably the most major one, being a 12 Power body for 6 Energy. That's the most efficient stats-to-cost in the game with no downside, but there are cards that can combo to get bigger than that or do more to disrupt the opponent. The High Evolutionary unlocks abilities for all these units at the start of a game if he's in your deck, making them no longer vanilla — ironically, that makes him a technical Vanilla since he has no other abilities that trigger over the course of the game.
    • Several cards have basically plain stats but always appear in your hand on the turn when you have the Energy to play them, no sooner or no later. They're just underpowered vanillas on the board, but they ensure you'll have something to do. These include Quicksilver, Domino, and America Chavez.
  • Monster Train
    • Your deck always starts with four Train Stewards, basic 5/8 units that are meant to be removed as you gain better units. However, the Advanced Prototype artifact gives them effects that make them much more useful even into late game.
    • Demon Fiend is a Hellhorned unit that costs 4 Ember (more than the default max of 3), but has a hefty stat of 50/50.
    • The Umbra's Shadowsiege is an even bigger and harder to summon unit, with a massive cost of 6 Ember and is generally impossible to summon without increasing floor capacity, but comes with gigantic base stats of 200/150.
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes:
    • There is at least one fighter of this kind for each plant/zombie card class. Plants vs. Zombies being a pun-based series, there's even a fighter that plays this in both the literal and trope sense — the Smarty Class' Vanilla, a 3-cost 3/3 vanilla flower (and bean) with no special abilities.
    • There are also several Virtual Vanilla fighters with "when played" effects and nothing else, although considering how devastating some of their effects areFor instance, they're often never considered vanilla.

Eastern RPG

  • Pokémon:
    • The majority of damage-dealing moves have a secondary effect, but there are some (e.g. Dazzling Gleam) that don't. They tend to have middle-of-the-road power — stronger than moves with beneficial effects, and weaker than moves with drawbacks.
    • Gastro Acid turns the target Pokémon into a vanilla by suppressing its ability, leaving it with just raw stats and moves. The Koffing line's Neutralizing Gas ability takes this further by turning every Pokémon on the field, save itself, into a vanilla. There are some Pokémon who can't be reduced to vanilla via either method as their abilities cannot be suppressed.

Fighting Game

  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: In its story mode, The World of Light, the player must collect spirits that they can equip to power up their fighters. They come in two kinds: primary spirits, which boost stats and have slots to equip secondary spirits to, which have bonus effects such as starting battles with a certain item equipped. Some primary spirits have no slots, but they have higher stats to compensate.

Platform Game

  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros. 2: Of the four main characters, Mario and Toad both count, lacking special abilities like Princess Toadstool's floating or Luigi's air kick. Mario has well-rounded stats, while Toad has faster movement and pickups at the expense of a shorter jump.
    • Super Mario 3D World: Luigi can scuffle after his jumps to cover more ground, while Peach can float. Unlockable character Rosalina has a special spin move that can be used as an attack and a double jump. In contrast, Mario and Toad have no special abilities. Mario is a Jack of All Stats, while Toad is a speed-oriented character.

Puzzle Game

  • Angry Birds: Red and Terence are the only birds without special abilities. Red is an example of the Low-Tier Letdown sort of vanilla unit; conversely, Terence is one of the strongest birds in the game, making up for his lack of abilities with raw destructive power. Angry Birds 2 gives Red a new ability in the form of a battle cry that pushes around structures and pigs, but Terence still has no abilities.

Real-Time Strategy

  • Empire Earth:
    • "Unique" units are campaign-only variations of a unit with improved stats corresponding to the unit's upgrade in the following era, e.g. the WWI German Soldier has the stats of a WW2 Marine but otherwise have no particular ability.
    • In the sequel, every civilization has 3 unique units that correspond to a role in the Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors, each available for 5 eras out of 15. These have better stats than their corresponding unit (e.g. Samurai > Swordsman, Mangonel > Catapult, Teutonic Knight > Knight) at first, but by the final eras they're outmatched and their main advantage is that they're cheaper.
    • Subverted with several units that actually do stand out from their counterparts:
    • The Aztec Jungle Healer has a bigger healing radius than the medic.
      • The Egyptian Royal Elephant deals the same damage type as a horseman, but has a ranged attack.
      • The Zulu Inyanga is the only Combat Medic unit in the game.
      • The Maasai Laibon is a priest and a medic, while the Sirit Bomber is better against units than the standard Anti-Structure bomber.
      • The campaign version of the Teutonic Knight lets them convert enemies.
  • StarCraft: Downplayed by the base units of each race. The Terrans have Marines, the Protoss have Zealots, and the Zerg have Zerglings. They are the overall weakest (non-worker) in each faction and the Zealots do not come with any abilities at all. By default, Marines have a ranged weapon. Once upgraded, Marines can use Stim-Packs which increases their movement and rate of fire temporarily, while Zerglings (like most Zerg ground units) can burrow to become invisible, both very minor abilities in the grand scheme. Each can also obtain some passive upgrades via research including boosts to attack rate, range, and movement speed.
  • Total War:
    • Rome: Total War:
      • The base infantry unit for most factions (above Peasants) are the Vanilla Units. Roman and Carthaginian Town Watch and Eastern Infantry are light infantry with poor morale, basic spears and shields, and very little armor. They're adequate for garrisoning towns as defensive units, driving off small Rebel forces, and supplementing larger armies as reserves/to increase their siege equipment-building capacity, but are easily outclassed by anything higher on the Tech Tree in combat.
      • Downplayed by the base infantry units of the Barbarian (Spear Warband) and Greek (Militia Hoplites). While still the most "vanilla" units in their factions' tech trees, each comes with a very minor ability. Warband can use "War Cry" to lower the morale of enemy forces and Militia Hoplites can form a phalanx, but so can every nearly other infantry unit of their factions.
    • Total War: Warhammer: Every faction possesses a few units of basic line infantry with no advanced abilities, intended mainly to provide a basic defensive line, blunt enemy aggression, and add to the army's overall momentum. Their relative use varies depending on the faction — Dwarf warriors and Chaos marauders are both relatively strong for their simplicity, for instance, while the zombies and skeletons of the Vampire Counts, Bretonnian peasants and Skavenslaves are purely expendable Cannon Fodder.
  • Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos:
    • Downplayed by the base units of each faction. Humans have Footmen, Orcs have Grunts, Night Elves have Archers, and Undead have Ghouls. They are the overall weakest (non-worker) in each faction and do not come with any abilities by default. However, each can gain a (rather unexciting) ability via research. Footmen can learn "Defend" which slows them down but increases their defense, Orcs get a passive health/damage boost, Archers gain additional range, and Ghouls can learn to "Cannibalize" nearby corpses to regain health.
    • Some maps feature mercenary camps where different creeps can be hired to supplement a player's forces. For the most part they have no special abilities apart from higher stats (and being unaffected by weapon and armor upgrades means they'll die faster against late-game units), though some have spells or abilities otherwise unavailable to a player (such as the Harpy Windwitch's Faerie Fire, a Night Elf spell, or the Razormane Medicine Man's Healing Ward, an Orc spell). Even those with abilities are situationally useful (a Forest Troll High Priest has Heal and Inner Fire, same as an Alliance priest... but its food cost is twice that of a priest).
    • Of the four T3 melee units, the Alliance's Knight has no ability, compared to the Abomination (eats corpses to regain health), Tauren (Herd-Hitting Attack), and Druid of the Claw (can increase its and allies' damage). A very late patch gave the Knight a passive ability to deal more damage to a specific armor type, but that's it.
    • The Rifleman's only upgrade is to its range, compared to the Archer (can ride a Hippogryph), Headhunter (regenerate health and turn into Berserkers, who attack faster but take more damage), and Crypt Fiend (can't attack air, but can bring air units to the ground, immobilizing them).


Shoot 'em Up

  • Touhou Project:
    • If Reimu has a needle-based shot type, it probably serves as the "vanilla" shot type: the needles only go forward and have no special abilities, but they have high power to compensate. However, there are exceptions, like Subterranean Animism giving the Needle Reimu shot type the unique ability to warp between the left and right edges of the screen.
    • In Double Dealing Character, the weapons of the three protagonists are acting oddly. At the start of the game, you can choose whether you want to use the cursed weapon. Choosing not to gives you a more basic shot type.
    • In Wily Beast and Weakest Creature, collecting five spirits makes you enter Roaring Mode. If you got three or more beast spirits of the same type, you enter Berserk Roaring Mode, which triggers a power depending on the type of beast spirit, as well as giving you some generic benefits like protecting you from one hit. If not, you enter the "vanilla" Roaring Mode, which only offers the generic benefits.
  • The Void Rains Upon Her Heart: Her Heart is the only character not to have a gimmick or start out with a Power Gift beyond her Boring, but Practical basic shot type. She does have more Quick Gift slots than most of the other characters, though.

Tower Defense

  • The Battle Cats: In their first forms, the Normal Cats save Axe Cat and Fish Cat have no abilities outside of pure stats. Even in their True Forms, Mohawk Cat, Eraser Cat, Lion Cat, and King Dragon Cat have no special abilities.
  • Plants vs. Zombies and its sequel Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time:
    • The Peashooter is the most basic attacking plant with low cost but no special abilities, compared to other plants (including Peashooter variants) which have abilities like chilling enemies, firing more shots, attacking other lanes, or shooting backwards. Even the Cabbage-Pult, another plant with the same cost and no special effects, has the capability to hit submerged Snorkel Zombies and bypass the shields of zombies who have them (such as Newspaper, Screen Door and Ladder Zombies).
    • The Sunflower is the most basic sun-producing plant. All it does is generate a single sun every so often with no other effects, while other sun producers have abilities like generating more sun over time, making zombies drop sun when damaged, or instantly killing zombies and then generating sun. To make up for it, it's cheap to place and very reliable at producing sun.
    • The Wall-nut is the most basic defensive plant, doing nothing but absorbing a large amount of damage from zombies. Other defensive plants have special effects, such as the capability to block vaulting or airborne zombies, health regeneration, damaging the zombies attacking it, knocking back zombies, or having a much quicker recharge time. The Wall-nut still has more health than most of these and is cheaper than them at 50 sun.

Turn-Based Strategy

  • Advance Wars has tanks. They can't capture or get boosted vision on mountains like infantry, lack the high vision of recons, can't supply or transport like APCs, can't one-punch air units like anti-airs, can't strike over distances like indirects, can't transverse seas or the air like naval or air units, and have no special affinities or unique traits. All it has is bog-standard average fuel, ammo, movement, and vision, and a primary and secondary weapon... meaning it is the most versatile unit at your disposal.
  • Battle for Wesnoth has the Knalgan faction, comprised of dwarvish and human units. With two exceptions (Thief units which get Back Stab and Ulfserkers) their unit roster has no special abilities or unusual attack traits. The above-average power and sturdiness of dwarves mostly makes up for the lack of special abilities, but they struggle to hit enemies in favorable terrain due to lack of any Always Accurate Attack units like mages or marksmen.
  • Fire Emblem: Most weapons in classic games (up to Awakening) have no special effects, which serves to make the ones that do have them feel more special. However, later games took the exact opposite approach by making all weapon have special effects (negative and positive) to balance out the absence of a Breakable Weapons system.
  • Gihren's Greed:
    • One Year War era: The GM has no special abilities other than being equipped with a shield that they can use to deflect enemy attacks. They otherwise are completely vanilla, lacking even the ability to swap weapons (even though in-universe they're supposed to be able to utilise any weapons wielded by the Gundam like the Hyper Bazooka or Beam Javelin). In comparison, their Zeon counterpart the Zaku II can swap weapons between the Zaku Machinegun or the Zaku Bazooka, and can be equipped with a Dodai bomber support craft that allows them to become flying units in gameplay.
    • Operation Stardust Era:
      • The GM Custom is a huge improvement to the original GM in terms of stats, but still lacks the ability to swap out their loadouts and are restricted to their basic weaponry consisting of an assault rifle, head vulcans and a beam saber.
      • The Dra-C utilised by the Delaz Fleet have no special features and are effectively an evolutionary dead-end. Their only key saving grace is how cheap they are to build.
    • Grypps War era: The GM II is an improvement of the original, but otherwise exactly the same. The only big change is the ability to be equipped with a flying sled to grant them the ability to fly, but that's common to virtually all Mobile Suits of the era. However, the GM can be upgraded into the vastly more powerful and versatile GM III...
  • Heroes of Might and Magic:
    • In the first two games, the Knight faction fits Humans Are Average to an extreme, having cost-efficient and well-statted creatures with no special abilities. The only unit with a special ability in the first game was the Paladin which attacks twice, while the second only added the Ranger that shoots twice and the Crusader that's immune to curses and deals 2x damage to Undead. Averted by their Castle successors in III, which added several new creatures with more diverse effects and gave new specials to existing creatures.
    • Any unit that can't fly, can't shoot, and doesn't have any immediate impact is nicknamed a walker, since all they can do on their first turn is walk towards the enemy. Most walkers have good stats to compensate, but those that can't even deliver on that are the worst creatures in the game. Walkers do at least fill the important role of defending your shooters from flyers that dive on them, since they threaten to counterattack and kill anything that moves too hastily.

Visual Novel

  • Monster Prom: Many shop items unlock secret endings, but there's also a series of basic ones that just give you a boost in one stat. Similarly, many of the drinks in the sequel Monster Camp have wacky effects, but there are still a few that just give you a simple stat boost.

Western RPG

    Non-Game Examples 
Anime and Manga
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: The humble GM, the mass-produced version of the Gundam, is more than a match for their primary opposition the Zaku IIs, Goufs and Doms. However, unlike the Gundam they're made of regular titanium (except for their lunar titanium shield) and their beam spray gun has less range than the Gundam's beam rifle. In-universe, they're considered Boring, but Practical, with a design that would continue to be used for decades with occasional improvements.
    • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam:
      • The GM II, successor to the original GM, is a completely bog-standard, unremarkable Mobile Suit. It's also effectively the same as the original, with only slight improvements like improved thrusters and reactors. It's quickly phased out as the series progresses due to its lack of special features making it easily out-paced by the various newer machines, but due to sheer numbers it still appears all the way up to the finale.
      • The Nemo is AEUG's trademark Mobile Suit, introduced to replace the GM IIs they'd been utilising. Like the GM II, there's nothing particularly remarkable about the Nemo save that they're significantly more powerful than the GM IIs they were replacing but still simple enough that pilots trained on the GM II could easily transition to them.
      • In-universe, this is what causes the Barzam to be rejected by the Titans. On paper, it's quite powerful for a mass-production suit. However, by the point of the series where it was being considered for mass-production (in order to replace their current mainstays the Hi-Zacks and GM Quels), it was considered too vanilla and rejected. Among other problems were the fact the Barzam could only be equipped with weapons specifically designed for it, but that also meant that specialised factories and facilities would be needed to build and maintain them.
      • An in-universe complaint about the Gundam Mk II is that it's a completely vanilla version of the original Gundam. Where the original Gundam was a quantum leap in terms of Mobile Suit design, the Mk II had nothing special about it. In fact, AEUG had to develop the G-Defensor support mech to combine with it to form the Super Gundam, just to give it a chance of keeping up with the Titans' increasingly powerful Super Prototype machines.
    • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: The Kowloon Gundam is a completely vanilla Mobile Fighter with no special gimmicks or weapons (compared to Mobile Fighters with special weapons like the Rose Gundam's Rose Bits or Bolt Gundam's Graviton Hammer, or gimmicks like the Zeus Gundam's chariot or Nobel Gundam's Berserker System). However, it doesn't actually need them, since the Kowloon Gundam is utilised by Master Asia, the Undefeated of The East and World's Strongest Man. Master Asia can destroy Mobile Suits and Fighters with his bare hands, so the Kowloon Gundam didn't need anything particularly noteworthy to be effective.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: The Leo is the most ubiquitous Mobile Suit in the series. They can be equipped with solid ammunition or beam weapons, and both terrestrial and space-borne versions exist, but there's nothing special about them other than their ease of production and use. OZ utilises them as their most basic forces, with other more specialised Mobile Suits being used for specific missions (e.g. the Cancers are designed for marine warfare, the Aries are meant for aerial combat). So numerous are the Leos that they appear all the way up to the finale, despite being dramatically outmatched by the Taurus and Virgo II Mobile Dolls that make up their main opposition.


  • Transformers: Several characters from the initial 1984 and 1985 toyline didn't have fancy titles like "Air Commander" (Starscream, Rank 9), "Special Operations Agent" (Jazz, Rank 8) or "Communications Officer" (Soundwave, Rank 8), instead having the function of "Warrior" with a rank of 5. Examples include...
    • The Lamborghini twins Sunstreaker and Sideswipe both had the rank of 5 and the function of "Warrior". Sideswipe had significantly higher stats for Courage and Endurance than Sunstreaker, but conversely Sunstreaker had much higher stats for Skill (reflecting how he's the more skilled of the two). Otherwise, they didn't have any particularly unique skills or powers (other than Sideswipe having a jetpack he could use for limited flight).
    • Of the 6 Decepticon jets (Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp, Thrust, Dirge, Ramjet), Thrust stands out as the most vanilla of the group. While all of them bar Starscream are ranked 5 with the function of "Warrior", Thrust is the only one without any notable or unique powers or abilities note .

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