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We Have Reserves

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Longshanks: Archers.
English Commander: I beg your pardon, sire, but… won't we hit our own troops?
Longshanks: ...Yes. But we'll hit theirs as well. We have reserves. Attack!

There are a lot of ways to have a character Kick the Dog or cross the Moral Event Horizon. In a war movie or battle sequence, if you want to show that a general, king, or commander is evil (really evil, not a Punch-Clock Villain and way beyond a Designated Villain), all you have to do is show his casual—if not complete—disregard for the lives of his own troops by either knowingly ordering them into certain slaughter or giving an order that directly results in their deaths. Retreat is, of course, forbidden; he expects Attack! Attack! Attack! without a second thought, and a Last Stand before retreat. (And he usually does it from perfect safety.) General Failure will often upgrade this from a last resort to his preferred tactic.

After a moment like this, the character might as well have asshole printed on his forehead. Bonus points if he refers to his troops as being trash or somehow subhuman, or if he does it not because he sincerely believes that doing this is necessary to win, but in pursuit of his own glory/making a name for himself. A We Have Reserves commander is very much a Bad Boss, and a reason why there is such a high mortality rate among Redshirt Armies, Faceless Goons, Mooks, and the like.

Note that this does not have to be done strictly in a war setting, and works just fine if, say, the Big Bad or The Dragon decides to sacrifice someone in a Quirky Mini Boss Squad, or a small band of mooks. Employing this under such circumstances when he probably does not, in fact, have reserves, is a form of the Villain Ball.

Callousness is necessary for it to be a suitable Kick the Dog moment. A general who throws troops into a battle knowing they will all die but knowing a victory here will save more lives can be pardoned of it if he shows that he is aware of the cost. (Drowning My Sorrows and Bad Dreams are popular tropes for demonstrating that awareness.) After all, one cannot get through a real war with zero casualties, and some number of losses must be accepted. The same thing applies for a commander of a stricken vessel who sometimes must seal off sections of a ship and doom the crew inside lest the entire ship is lost. An inexperienced officer who inadvertently does this may only be a moron or having a moment of panic while in command for the first time, and might still be redeemable if he shows Character Development because of it or improves his tactics.

In more fantastical settings, most necromancers and other undead-using sorts will gleefully send legions of their troops off to get re-killed, on the basis that no actual lives are being lost. Well, except for the enemy's. And that just adds to your own numbers. The dead do not kill, they recruit. (Depending on how the necromancy is represented, even the destroyed undead can be somewhat reconstituted.)

Compare Zerg Rush, Cannon Fodder, Redshirt Army (when the good side employs this) and Expendable Clone (where a character is his own reserves). Also compare The Pawns Go First, when the formidable Big Bad sends out Mooks rather than engage the fight himself. See also You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and You Have Failed Me for similar moments from a Bad Boss. Shoot the Messenger also relies on the Big Bad feeling that his mooks are completely expendable. Contrast Can't Kill You, Still Need You and Mook Depletion. The Neidermeyer is the most likely type of officer or leader particularly to use this tactic; Sergeant Rock and A Father to His Men (who may invoke The Men First) are at the opposite end of this scale. Subtrope of Quantity vs. Quality.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: During the Red Ribbon Army arc, Commander Red has this attitude towards his men, and also has them executed for any kind of failure, no matter how small. It becomes even worse when it turns out that he didn't want the Dragon Balls to Take Over the World, but just to make himself taller.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Frieza has absolutely no concern for the lives of his men, to the point that he takes virtually any excuse he can to kill them himself. A big part of the Namek Saga consists of him sending wave after wave of his mooks after the Z-Fighters until there's literally no one left.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Rei's mantra "If I die, I can be replaced!" is a rare case of a character invoking this trope on herself, which is exploited by Gendo Ikari. She can. We have the technology. This practice disgusts Shinji, who is at least concerned about Rei's individual well-being.
    • Played straight with other pilots. In the Unit 03 incident where he casually orders it destroyed with the pilot (Touji in series, Asuka in the Rebuild films) still inside, and activates the Dummy system when Shinji won't do it and based on his comments about needing Shinji and Rei together in Rebuild, it's hinted he deliberately took the chance to eliminate Asuka, so she wouldn't become a unknown extra factor in his plans..
  • Mad Scientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi of Bleach is a particularly horrific example. He turns a number of subordinates into living bombs without them knowing it, and tells them to simply convince two protagonists to come with them. Instead, he detonates them while they're standing around the protagonists, including one who survives his comrades exploding because "A bomb isn't supposed to come back after being used".
    • Aizen considers every minion and teammate expendable.
    • The Vandenreich Emperor tore apart murdered two of his Arrancar minions with paper-thin justification. When pointed out that Arrancar were a valuable resource, he simply replied that having captured Hueco Mundo, they could make them at will.
  • Mad Bomber Kimblee of Fullmetal Alchemist turns fellow soldiers into living bombs in the anime and indiscriminately used one as a human shield in the manga.
    • In the manga, Amestris' entire philosophy during the Ishval Civil War was this. Naturally, the soldiers like Maes Hughes did not take kindly to this, and Amestris officers were frequently shot by their own men. This was, however, less a matter of callousness and more a deliberate attempt to kill as many people as possible on both sides to empower the Philosopher's Stone.
  • In Naruto, Orochimaru kills the squad of teenage ninja (minus Dosu, who was already dead) he had infiltrating the chuunin exams in order to use their lives to resurrect several deceased ninja leaders, just to help him win one fight. One of the resurrections even ends up failing and kills its component ninja anyway. He even explicitly told Kakashi earlier that he considers any of his subordinates without special worth worthless pawns.
  • In the anime Now and Then, Here and There, an insane king orders a superweapon fired on a battlefield where his own men are fighting the enemy. Thing is, he didn't have reserves (not enough, anyway), and spent an episode or two freaking out over it before deciding to kidnap more people to draft into his army. The fact that they're children makes the use of this trope even more effective than usual.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, a Federation commander starts what turns into a string of Kick the Dog moments when he deliberately marches mobile suit teams into traps in an attempt to cause a nuclear blast when their reactors go off, destroying or at least uncovering the Zeon base hidden in a mountain.
    • Supplementary material from the One Year War-era series indicates this is the entire purpose behind the RB-79 Ball - a small, unarmored, slow-moving space utility pod made combat-capable by mounting a heavy cannon on it, shortcomings which they attempt to make up for by producing as many of the little buggers as they can. Later Federation Mobile Suits aren't much better - the GM, a mass-produced version of the Super Prototype Gundam, has only about half the offensive potential and has no core block system to save pilots that are shot down.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, the Earth Alliance activates a cyclops system hidden beneath their Alaska base when it comes under attack by ZAFT. The system nukes everything within 10 miles of the base and kills nearly everyone defending it. This actually helps the Atlantic Federation as it kills off most of the Eurasian political moderates and allows the Earth Alliance to pursue a more genocidal path towards ending the war. This is what causes the Archangel crew to finally defect from the Alliance.
      • Muruta Azrael and Lord Djibril, leaders of Blue Cosmos, and by default, the Atlantic Federation both use this as their strategy. They believe their men to be expendable, and in Azrael's case, actually classes some of his soldiers as equipment, rather than personnel.
    • Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam has a particularly extreme example. The Jupiter Empire tends to be very strict with its resources (like air, water, and MS) because these things are a lot harder to come by so far from Earth. This attitude, however, does not extend to human beings; early on, the heroes learn that their well-intentioned mercy is pointless, as the pilots they capture and release get executed by the Empire as punishment for allowing their MS to be destroyed.
  • Subverted in the Bokurano manga: It is eventually implied that the adults who were assigned to assist the main-character children in their battles for the fate of the universe are actually there to kill any children who refuse to fight, because under the series rules such a refusal would otherwise doom the universe, while killing them will just automatically switch control to their replacement. A subversion, because it is implied that this is the right thing to do; the one child who figures it out (on his own) agrees that he might not be able to fight, and tells them to kill him quickly if it comes to that point.
  • In Claymore, it is revealed fairly early on that the shadowy organization in charge of Claymores sends them on suicide missions whenever they become too dangerous. Possibly justified by the tendency of Claymores to suffer Super Power Meltdowns.
    • This doesn't really count since they are not throwing them against those opponents because they do not care if they die but because they want them' to die because they are too problematic. This trope still applies for this series, however, since the slaughter at Pieta was this (the organization throwing all of its "less valuable" warriors into a battle they could not survive without hoping for them to accomplish anything aside from slowing the enemy a little).
  • During the final arc of Code Geass, Lelouch (the protagonist) takes this trope to an extreme, having Mind Controlled an army into being his slaves (making them all wear masks that make it clear that these are not longer human beings, just pawns) and then using them in battle in ways that would ensure their deaths (using them as bait, or sending them to be used as shields against nukes) without concern. How bad this makes him look is exactly what he is pretending to be, for the sake of uniting the world against him and bringing about world peace.
    • This was the strategy of the Chinese Federation, who used 4th Generation mechs when the rest of the world had 5th-9th Generation Knightmares at their disposal. However, they had way more troops than the other countries, hence their invocation of this trope.
  • Often demonstrated by the villains in One Piece, usually in contrast to the protagonists who are shown to be caring for their crewmates and avoid innocent casualties. Examples: Captain Kuro, who uses a randomly striking killing technique while his men are in the area and planned to off them ALL anyway to cover his tracks ("They are worthless except to further my plans!"); Enel, who would destroy a kingdom full of his own subjects because only he deserves to live in the sky; and massive idiot Spandam, who doesn't really care about (accidentally) invoking ten battleships to obliterate Enies Lobby and all its staff and soldiers if it gets him his success. The most multi-layered Bastard award goes to Crocodile, who while posing as a local hero protector of the populace, incites a civil war in Alabasta, and during the climax of which has a massive cannon aimed at the centre of the warring parties (including his own agents provocateur among them) to wipe them all out in one swoop. More than that, the cannon's giant bomb is rigged with a timer to go off even if it isn't launched, which Crocodile's own elite agents guarding the cannon don't know!
    • Averted with Captain T-Bone, who rips apart his officer's cloak to make bandages for his men, and when later facing the Strawhats, his first concern is what happened to the troops they had to have gone through.
    • Even if they aren't necessarily the villains, some of the Marines show this behaviour too, as the doctrine of "Absolute Justice" implies that any evil should be eradicated at any cost. This is shown during the Buster Call in Enies Lobby, when one warship was destroyed (along with one thousand marines) by the others in order to kill only one criminal; one of the captains even shot a marine who hesitated in following the order. Taken Up to Eleven during the Marineford arc. Akainu is seen dousing one of his own men in lava because that soldier wisely knew he didn't have a chance of inflicting any damage on the pirate army they were facing, and begged to be taken off the front lines so he could live another day to support his wife and family. Akainu then tries to do the same to Coby because Coby dared to point out that marines were dying because they were being neglected treatment while the other marines were off chasing pirates that were trying to either withdraw or surrender, having lost all reason to fight. Never mind that Akainu completely ignores Black Beard, who not only betrayed his own commander, Whitebeard, and murdered his comrades, but betrayed the Marines too, and made himself a very real threat by stealing, and using Whitebeard's "Quake Quake" fruit.
    • Mad Scientist Caesar Clown in the Punk Hazard arc shows us clearly that he doesn't give a shit about how many people he has to kill for his experiments. Hell, he'll even do so with a huge smile on his face if it means succeeding, and gloats about the fact that the children he experimented on will not survive five years, all the while being a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing to all of them. Damn !
    • Soldiers of Germa 66 are trained to jump in front of the leader and act as a meat shields, whenever said leader says "wall". This isn't only used for defense - the leader of the family once used this command to block his opponents attack, and then stabbed him through his own soldier. Their disregard for soldier lives are motivated by the fact that all their soldiers are clones, artificially grown in Germa's laboratories.
  • In the third volume of Hellsing, Tubalcain Alhambra sends waves of Brazilian police officers to attack Alucard, fully aware that they are no match for him, so that he will use up most of his bullets to make it easier for Alhambra to fight him.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Shishio sends a group of four monks to recruit Aoshi, knowing that they will get drawn into a conflict and probably all die, but it will give him a chance to measure Aoshi's skills. Aoshi picks up on this and calls Shishio's Dragon Soujiro out on it after the Curb-Stomp Battle, saying he thinks both the tactic and Shishio are heartless and despicable. Unusually, Soujiro jabs back at Aoshi, saying that it was just as heartless for Aoshi to kill 4 men without hesitation knowing that they were only pawns who were no match for him.
  • Meleagros and Atalantes in Heroic Age are willing to do this, being as prideful as they are, they would do anything to win at all costs.
  • Golg Bodolza plays it straight in Macross: Do You Remember Love? when advised that he probably shouldn't fire his Wave Motion Gun on Lapramiz' Mobile Fortress as there are thousands of his own ships in the line of fire. He orders the attack regardless. In retrospect, a bad idea, as witnessing the resultant massacre gives Breetai Kridanik second thoughts, which later end up turning the tide of battle.
  • In Saikano, a JSDF commander orders the evacuation of the regulars but not the reserves before unleashing Chise, so that the enemy won't see it coming. In a moment of perfect Ax Craziness and Laser-Guided Karma, she taunts and kills the command group a couple pages later.
  • Xanxus from Katekyō Hitman Reborn! is like this, so much that when the Varia were battling Zakurou, Kikyou, and Bluebell, and Zakurou asked him what it felt like to watch his men killed, Xanxus said 'Would you be distracted seeing a bunch of ants dying?"
  • In Sengoku Basara, many of the villains seem to take this attitude, but none more so than Mori Motonari, who regards all his men (and indeed his opponents' men) as disposable...and for that matter uses the term "sacrificial pawn" far more than any decent commander should.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Fiamma of the Right doesn't care about his teammates in God's Right Seat. He declares that he is the only important member and as long as he lives, he can get new members.
  • In the English dub of Axis Powers Hetalia, America has a "great" plan to defeat the titular Axis Powers. Russia's role? Keep sending in cannon fodder!
  • In Freezing, Scarlet Oohara may be willing to perform excruciatingly painful experiments on young girls in order to reinforce the only capable fighting force against the Novas, but she does genuinely care about her subjects and doesn't want to hurt them any more than necessary. Too bad the brass are demanding quick results, even if forcing things could result in the girls' deaths, and always remind her that they could get new girls in. Even worse, the E-Pandora project was never meant to produce viable results. The recruits were nothing but a means to buy time for Scarlet's real pet project to bear fruit.
  • In Space Battleship Yamato 2199, the Yamato attempts to use Gamillan warp gates to save time. Coincidentally, the enemy Field Marshall is holding a fleet review as a prelude to seizing control of the Empire at a major gate hub they must pass through. As the Yamato breaks through the ten thousand-strong fleet, the Field Marshall orders his ships to open fire. Friendly fire and collisions destroy more ships than the humans do, at least until the Wave Motion Gun destroys the gates' power source while escaping via Recoil Boost.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Both Commander Erwin and Commander Pixis, despite being fathers to their men, often have to employ this mentality with their own soldiers and even civilians as any and all sacrifices are acceptable if it means saving humanity as a whole. They know their efforts has caused the deaths of countless of people and believe there is a spot in Hell waiting for them.
    • This is standard for the nation of Marley, which is more than happy to use this to keep their Warriors in line. Should they ask too many questions, disobey orders, or fail their missions, their superiors will simply replace them with one of the many reserve candidates.
  • Rather horribly justified in Berserk: A Kushan general doesn't seem to care whether the Rain of Arrows initiated by him lands on his own troops. This is however part of the Kushan's tactics, since the soldiers put in the front lines are not actually Kushans but people from the countries invaded by them. This way they can save their own troops, plus it has a demoralizing effect on the opponent. The biggest advantage is that, since the invading Kushans are constantly getting new reserves, they can use tactics like this and still keep growing in strength.
  • In Voltes V the Big Bad does not care if his own troops get within range of his Doomsday Device, as long as Voltes V is defeated.
  • In Robotech the Invid don't care how many losses they take, there's just more of them than the Robotech Expeditionary Force has missiles.
  • In Sword Princess Altina the preferred tactic of most commanders is to just send more and more soldiers at a problem until it goes away. When Regis points out the flaws of this to another strategist, one who defeated him in mock combat and should know better, Regis is told to go away "lest [his] cowardice affect the troops." Note, this is in volume 5 after Regis had already successfully led an assault to capture an "impregnable" enemy fortress, and fought that enemy's army just to get to the engagement that the "brave" strategist is planning to fight.
  • Leonmichelle from Dog Days is a big fan of wave attacks, and none too fussy about any damage to her own side that her attacks might cause. Of course, like most war tropes in Dog Days, this is completely Played for Laughs, because in such a war where nobody gets seriously hurt, the only real casualty in a worst-case scenario would be the clothes.
  • Nectar Of Dharani: Valento convinces the dark elf generals to shell their own men because ordering a retreat order first would warn the enemy. Then when the battle turns, he casually escapes and leaves them behind.

    Card Games 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has a card called "Human Wave Tactics" that allows a player to replace low-level normal (no effect) monsters at the end of the turn they're killed. (Ironically, all eligible monsters are absolutely useless offensively. Having hordes of monsters in your graveyard, however...)
  • Magic: The Gathering
    • Green or white small creature decks are often centered on this.
    • Decks built around Goblins not only employ cheap creatures whose only purpose is to get a bit of damage in at the opponent before dying any one of numerous ways, but creatures that give you beneficial effects for intentionally sacrificing them. A few examples: Dragon Fodder, Goblin Grenade, Siege-Gang Commander...Just pray that this goblin deck does not include a copy of Coat of Arms...
    • Similarly, the Rise of the Eldrazi expansion introduces Eldrazi Spawn, token creatures generated by other cards, whose sole use is to be sacrificed for mana so you can summon your ridiculously powerful but ridiculously expensive Eldrazi.
    • The Thrulls of the Fallen Empires set were treated this way by their masters the Order of the Ebon Hand. The Order's downfall began when they made two big mistakes: 1) they let the Thrulls' breeding get out of control, and 2) they started creating more intelligent and powerful Thrulls capable of using magic.

    Comic Books 
  • Played perfectly straight by the Russian military in The Punisher MAX. Where one particular arc sees Frank Castle tasked with infiltrating a nuclear missile base in Siberia and rescuing a six year old girl whose blood contains an experimental super virus. However the mission goes awry and Frank has to fight his way out of the missile base. And the Russian military's attempts at trying to prevent his escape amount to sending out as many conscripts as humanly possible in the hopes that it will work. It doesn't.
    Frank Castle: Russian military never was too sentimental about spending lives.
    [Frank finishes slaughtering the current wave of Russian troops]
    Frank: — I'm not too sentimental either.
  • Starr from Preacher does this at least once, sending a US tank division against the Saint of Killers. Starr's reaction to them being butchered mercilessly by the guy who replaced the Angel of Death is to shrug, say that he didn't really expect it to work anyway, and call down a nuclear strike on the spot.
    • Starr's former Bad Boss, D'Aronique, similarly ordered waves of his own men into certain death against the Saint. Although at least D'Aronique had no idea who the Saint was, his callousness to the deaths of his men is horrifying.
      Grail Officer: Requesting permission to withdraw the next charge, sir.
      D'Aronique: Denied. Instead you will lead it.
  • In the X-Wing Series arc "Battleground: Tatooine", the Imperial captain Semtin heads to Ryloth after a criminal he wants; the Rogues follow. The relative sheltering this criminal, bribed by both sides, decides to have them compete in a not-quite Combat by Champion to see who gets him, and the Rogues impress the judge, but the Imperials did fulfill the stated goal. Plus, Semtin bribed the judge, snuck in and grabbed the criminal, and fled with him, abandoning fourteen seasoned troopers on Ryloth, where they faced being sold into slavery. The troopers, who gained a great deal of respect for the Rogues during the contest, immediately pull a Heel–Face Turn and go after Semtin, who had this to say before he was shot.
    Semtin: I told you the mission would involve sacrifices! You should be willing to give up your very life for your Emperor!
    Sixtus: For the Empire, yes! For the personal gain of its officials... never!
  • In the "Retreat" storyline of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Twilight allows his troops to be massacred by the three Wrathful Goddesses because he's curious to see the goddesses in action. When one of his subordinates calls him on it:
    Twilight: They're mortals. Got to die sometime.
  • In Krypton No More, Superman and Supergirl fight a warrior alien race called the J'ai that has this mindset. They don't care for casualties because they reproduce very, very quickly.
  • Played absolutely straight by Jhiaxus in the Transformers: Generation 2 comic, in which his reponse to staggering losses is to throw another wave of troops into battle with the Warworld and the Swarm.
  • In a short appended to a The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers tale, Fat Freddy's Cat has a particularly successful campaign against the cockroaches that live under the oven. From memory, paraphrased:
    Junior Officer: General, the entire brigade has been wiped out!
    General: There's plenty more where they came from.
  • Fables shows a battle involving a General who states his willingness to sacrifice gladly a hundred thousand men to kill any one enemy, and who demonstrates this by piling corpses against the castle walls high enough for troops to climb all the way up and then taking one enemy's head before retreating.
  • A Captain America storyline used it to contrast a Card-Carrying Villain with a Noble Demon. When Baron Zemo sent waves of HYDRA mooks to get captured as a distraction while he broke Codename:Bravo out of the Raft, Zemo comments that this is what HYDRA mooks are for, but Bravo replies that he respects the sacrifice of his soldiers.
  • The Siberian Wolves Aeroball team from Harlem Heroes are suicidal in their gameplay tactics. It's telling that, in a sport requiring a minimum of seven players, with subs, they have over thirty.
  • Black Science: Peterson's dimensionaut team returns from a successful foray. During the debriefing one of their finds breaks free and begins slaughtering the team. Mr Block seals the door instead of allowing them to escape or fighting back against the beast. He then calmly orders a backup team out on a new mission.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness shows this side of Fairy Tale:
    • Kiria's plan in Act III, which involved infecting dozens, if not hundreds, of his agents with Blackheart and then sending them back in time. Between Blackheart's one-hour time limit before it kills the infected and the life-stealing cost of Chrono Displacement, those minions were doomed no matter what.
    • In Act VII, Xia-Long casually talks about all of the "peons" they've had to sacrifice to feed Kurumu's clone while he's watching her rape a scientist he brought to her for just that to death. Then, when Moka's Ax-Crazy clone breaks free, he throws a soldier to her to save his own worthless hide before dialing up the others and telling them to send ALL of their henchmen down to try to contain her.

    Films — Animated 
  • During the climax of Kung Fu Panda 2, Lord Shen orders Boss Wolf to fire his cannon at the heroes. Knowing that the other wolves will get caught in the crossfire, he refuses and Shen kills him before doing it himself.
  • In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the general preparing for battle splits his soldiers into two operations: Operation Human Shield, consisting of the black soldiers, the all-important first attack wave expected to take heavy losses, and Operation Get Behind the Darkies, consisting of everyone else. Naturally, OHS, being lead by Chef, subverts the entire plan—by ducking.
    Chef: Operation Human Shield, my ass!
    • Operation Human Shield members were tied to the outside of tanks to supplement their armor!
  • In Dark Fury, Junner apologizes to Antonia that he allowed Riddick to kill a lot of mercs in his capture. Antonia shrugs off the loss, stating how little they mean to her and ordering Junner to unfreeze more mooks. Later on she unleashes a huge carnivorous monster after sending a team of mercs after Riddick, even though it has a habit of killing people indiscriminately and indeed ends up eating them.
  • In Shrek, Lord Farquaad views the knights as expendable, saying when he describes the assignment to Save the Princess, "Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make." Then whoever won the tournament would be sent to save the princess, if he died whoever was second would be sent, and so on. (Shrek, since he's an ogre, is even more expendable, so Farquaad doesn't end up sending any knights.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • As illustrated by the quote above, Edward the Longshanks of Braveheart. He actually does it twice during the Battle of Falkirk; in addition to the example in the quote, he begins the battle by ordering his commander to send in their Irish conscripts first because "Arrows cost money. The dead cost nothing". This bites him on the ass as they promptly switch sides. Not that it helps them since Longshanks actually wins the battle.
  • Star Wars:
    • Imperial Stormtroopers and TIE fighters are considered 100% disposable. Even Star Destroyers, massive expensive warships crewed by 37,000 people, were treated casually by Vader; in The Empire Strikes Back, he ordered these enormous ships into an Asteroid Thicket. While his captains had convened to holoconference with him and plead to leave the asteroid field, an asteroid takes out the bridge and one of them fades away, and he thinks nothing of it.
    • Palpatine, Vader's boss and the leader of the Galactic Empire, is even worse: In Deleted Scenes for Return of the Jedi, and also the movie's Novelization, Palpatine orders Jerjerrod to fire the Death Star's superlaser at Endor should the Rebels capture the shield generator. When Jerjerrod voices his reluctance to carry out the order due to the presence of their troops on the planet, Palpatine tells him that he will go through with the command. At least one legion, if not several battalions were stationed on Endor at that point, meaning that the Emperor has absolutely no qualms with murdering several populations of his forces if it meant destroying the Rebels.
    • There are a few exceptions to this in the Expanded Universe novels. For example, in The Last Command, Grand Admiral Thrawn states than he is less than happy over the loss of four — four! Luke kills that many in his first firefight on the Death Star! — stormtroopers, less than forty regular army troops, and a single assault vehicle, who were convinced by a private contractor to attack a group of people who were discussing going against the Empire.
    • Admiral Thrawn
      • Thrawn's attention to his troopers and machines becomes the rule later on, when the Empire is no longer the massive entity it used to be and is struggling to survive.
      • Even Thrawn did have his moments of counting on reserves. When it came to the Noghri commando units that he sends to capture Leia and her children, he dismisses the fact that a second one of these units has failed and been wiped out, essentially says that their loss is really not worth worrying about and that sooner or later one of those units will succeed.
    • The Prequel Trilogy puts an interesting twist on this already-established trope, in that the droid armies of the Separatists are cannon fodder compared to the clonetroopers. The EU and novelizations make this a bit more clear, but it's obvious even in the movies. The Separatists co-opt all of the big industrial groups in the galaxy, who already have their own large mercenary armies (think Haliburton and Blackwater), composed of droids. They can manufacture billions upon billions of droids, rolling off the assembly line ready for battle. They're completely willing to expend these droids because they're not really "alive" and utterly replaceable. In contrast, the clonetroopers/early stormtroopers were actually a step away from this trope when they first appeared on the battlefield. Clonetroopers take about 10 years to create, which is drastically less than a normal soldier, and you can make them in large numbers but that's nowhere near the matter of hours it takes for a droid to roll off the assembly line. However, as the films explicitly state, droid soldiers tend to be fairly stupid, while the clonetroopers have free will and can think for themselves, adapting to the situation and gaining experience. The Separatist forces actually consistently outnumbered the Republic for most of the war, because they could just keep replacing war droids. The problem was that the clonetroopers ultimately proved to be a better fighting force, repeatedly winning against numerically superior droid armies.
    • The Stormtroopers themselves are this even compared to their Clonetrooper predecessors; Clonetroopers took a minimum of 10 years to mature because they still needed a reasonable amount of time to develop mentally and physically. Even then most Clonetroopers are genetically altered to be less biologically complex, allowing them to absorb information and have less physical defects (ARC Troopers, by comparison, had a much more complex genome and much more rigorous selection process). In the closing stages of the war Palpatine had his own cloning facility output out 1 million clonetroopers in under one year, with a flash training of the usual regiment other clonetroopers go through. Most of these troopers, while still more effective than their Droid counterparts, are even worse compared to their older Clonetrooper brothers and were only better because of the sheer number of them that could be pumped out in 1/10th of the time.
    • Revulsion over this is what drives Gara Petothel's defection to the Republic in Wraith Squadron, after Trigit decides to sacrifice the tens of thousands of crew members to keep his Star Destroyer out of Republic hands. Trigit's boss, though, is a little more canny - in Iron Fist, he decides to hire a fleet full of mercenaries and pirates to get shot at in lieu of his troops during a major attack.
    • After the Vong Invasion and the Empire coming back, they seem to have stopped this; the TIE Fighters have shields (and had since the days of Thrawn), and stormtroopers know how to aim now.
    • The Vong themselves go through this much faster — their low-level soldiers have no qualms about giving their lives in battle. Later, Supreme Overlord Shimmra is seen chewing out his high officers because they've thrown away too many men and are having trouble holding their conquests.
    • Played with by the First Order in The Force Awakens. They aren't shown executing soldiers that fail their duties, most likely because they don't have the resources, budget, or the man power of the former Empire, and therefore, replacing soldiers is more difficult. But those that die in combat are regarded as "too weak" for the First Order.
    • In Rogue One, Grand Moff Tarkin uses the Death Star to eliminate their under-siege Database Archives on Scarif, an act which kills more Imperials than Rebels (most of whom were already dead). But because it kills his rival, Director Orson Krennic, who'd just realized there was a purposefully-planted weak spot in the Death Star, Tarkin unknowingly dooms himself and the Death Star, setting the stage for the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope.
  • Done humorously in the movie Mystery Men, where Casanova Frankenstein kills his own men for no other reason than to mention to the heroes he is so evil and uncaring that he kills his own men.
  • In Batman Forever, Two-Face fires indiscriminately at Batman while one of his goons is in the way.
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has Moran trying to shoot Watson from a sniper's nest, but his own henchman is blocking his view of Watson. He finally shoots the henchman ("Toldja!") to get a clear line of sight.
  • Indiana Jones
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark has Indy in a fight with a group of Major Toht's henchmen. Towards the end of this, he ends up wrestling one of them for a gun. Toht gives his other henchman the order to "Shoot them. Shoot them both!". This backfires, as it gives Indy and the Mook a common enemy to aim at.
    • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Mola Ram pushes his own men off the bridge as he attempts to make Indy fall off.
    • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Walter Donovan sends one mook after another into a series of Death Traps before Indy shows up and he figures out how to force him to do it.
  • In X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto takes a step away from his usual place as an Anti-Villain to order a group of weak mutants to lead a charge. He holds back his eager new apprentice Pyro from joining the charge, telling him "In chess, The Pawns Go First." When they get mowed down (revealing the other side's secret weapon, guns that shoot Power Nullifiers), he comments "That's why the pawns go first".
  • 300.
    Xerxes: Imagine what horrible fate awaits my enemies when I would gladly kill any of my own men for victory.
    Leonidas: And I would die for any one of mine.
  • Saving Private Ryan
    • Downplayed when Captain Miller started to fall into this tactic while still shell-shocked from landing on Omaha Beach during D-Day, twice ordering small groups of his squad to try to charge a machine gun position. After this he realizes what he's done, and instead has his Cold Sniper take out the machine gunner, while Miller risks his life to distract the gunner.
    • Alternatively, Miller may have realized that a single good sniper is simply worth more than four regular infantrymen. After all, snipers have more training and expertize, while also being less common and capable of filling the role of other infantrymen. In some occasions, some lives really are worth more than others.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the Big Bad shows no regard for his underlings when, during a Villainous Breakdown, he orders them to keep looking for the Galaxy Quest crew on the Protector even though the self-destruction countdown nears zero and evacuating his men would be the most logical option.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Jack is at least willing to hire a hundred men to his crew and then give up their souls in order to pay off his debt to Davy Jones, an act which even Jones can't believe Jack is capable of. But in the third film, after a brief taste of death, Jack is willing to throw the entire population of Shipwreck Island — his brothers in arms — at Jones and the IETC armada.
  • The 1957 Kirk Douglas film Paths of Glory
    • It's about a French general in World War I ordering a desperate plan to at long last break through the German lines, knowing full well the attack is certain to kill most of the men used in it (he even has the statistically probable numbers worked out). And he's doing it mainly to earn a promotion.
    • During the battle, when the rest of the French soldiers have come up out of their trench and advanced across the no-man's land, a SNAFU has caused the French B Company to still be hanging back in their own trench. The French General orders his artillery to fire on B Company in the hope that they'll be scared out of the trench and attack.
  • In Zulu, a 1964 film depicting the Battle of Rorke's Drift, the Zulu open the assault by getting close enough to the defended position that the British can easily shoot those in the front ranks. Lieutenant Chard remarks that King Cetshwayo is "testing our firing strength... with the lives of his men."
  • In Gallipoli, Colonel Robinson orders three waves of men to attack the Turkish Trenches at The Nek, even though all three are completely gunned down. He justifies it as a diversion for the British on Suvla. In reality, it was a diversion for a New Zealander attack.
  • Slightly indirect version in The Dark Knight. The Joker pulls a bank job working with what are at least some highly skilled thieves, who kill each other one by one under orders, leaving the Joker with all the money. Apparently the Joker has no worries about finding other people to work for him.
  • Enemy at the Gates opens with the Red Army advancing on the German front lines at Stalingrad. When each troop passed the Commissar, they were handed either a rifle or a single clip, and were then forced to charge against the well-armed Germans, and were gunned down by NKVD machine gunners if they tried to retreat.
    Commissar: "The man with the rifle shoots! The one without follows him! When the man with the rifle gets killed, the one who is following picks up the rifle and shoots!"
  • In A View to a Kill, after gleefully gunning down scores of his own miners, and detonating bombs which drown the others, Max Zorin simply looks at his watch and says "Good. Right on schedule.".
  • In Starship Troopers, both the Bugs and the humans apparently follow this philosophy, with the former obviously benefiting more from this tactic. Special mention goes to the attack on Whisky Outpost. After the Mobile Infantry shoots hundreds of Bugs from the compound, the dead Bug soldiers simply leave so many piled-up corpses in their wake that the next wave can simply walk right over the walls.
  • In The World's End after more or less clearing a pub of the Blanks, the group has a Mass "Oh, Crap!" when the exact same Blanks walk in through the front door, realising how screwed they really are.
  • In Alien, Ripley learns that Special Order 937 is "Priority one Insure return of [xenomorph] for analysis. All other considerations secondary. Crew expendable."
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, the rebel attacks shown in Districts Five and Seven don't have the finesse of a trained army, nor are they particularly well-equipped. What they do have is a lot of people fully willing to die if it means sticking it to the Capitol. This is especially true of District Five, whose rebels don't even have weapons. The entire plan was a suicidal Zerg Rush at a hydroelectric dam in order to destroy it, which took out everyone who managed to charge through the gunfire.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Thor: The Dark World, Odin is ready to get as many Asgardians killed fighting the dark elves as needed. When Thor asks how Odin is different from Malekith (who sacrificed most of his own race in the past) Odin replies that unlike Malekith he intends to win.
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, as the heroes and the Children of Thanos stand off in Wakanda, Black Panther says that the latter will get nothing but "dust and blood". Proxima Midnight promptly replies that "We have blood to spare", releasing armies of rabid alien Outriders.

  • In the fantasy series The Death Gate Cycle, one of assassin Hugh The Hand's jobs was to kill a mercenary captain who tended to take all the money his company was paid for a job, then order them into situations where as many of them died as possible so he wouldn't have to split the pay while running away from the battle. While doing this again, Hugh caught him and listed the names of everyone who had wanted him dead before killing the man.
  • Lord Hong in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Interesting Times. In the words of Cohen the Barbarian:
    Scum. That's what he called his own soldiers. It's like that bloody civilized game you showed us, Teach! The prawns [sic] are just there to get slaughtered while the king hangs around at the back!
    • Lord Rust seems to have studied in Hong's class. See what happens with any army he's entrusted to, though his tactics seem to be born from blatant stupidity, rather than malice. One would imagine an army commanded by the troll Sgt Detritus would be more effective, if only because Detritus would lead from the front and scare everyone away. (As of Snuff even Vimes has to admit, however, that Rust is neither cowardly nor dishonourable, even if his bravery and honour are hard to tell from his stupidity, and while the fact men were killed under his command is undoubtedly his fault, the fact he himself was never killed isn't, since he always led these suicide charges personally, and simply seemed to be protected by his implacable conviction that he was too noble to be killed.)
    • While temporally displaced in Night Watch, and in command of a barricade that got out of hand, Vimes notes that a thousand soldiers could take it, but only the last fifty would make it up by climbing the bodies of their fallen comrades.
    • The yardstick for measuring any General in Discworld seems to be "massive casualties." While having those casualties coming from the enemy is preferred, having most of them come from your own troops is still perfectly acceptable.
      • Conversely, Generals who manage to achieve victory with relatively few casualties are looked down upon as somehow not playing by the rules.
  • In the Honor Harrington series, we have the People's Navy. How closely they fit the characterization aspects of this trope changes over time as Haven suffers serial revolutions. The first government depicted gleefully sacrifices their "worthless Proles" for the aristocracy's betterment; the second theoretically have more respect for the common man, but they're fanatics, ready to shoot any officer who won't steer his ship into the meat grinder themselves. The restored Republic of Haven is much less callous about the quality of quantity.
    • The Solarian League Navy is noted on the Honor Harrington page itself as being so large, even their reserves have reserves. Not that it'd help them in the short run, as outclassed as they are. In the long run about the only thing the League has going for them is a strategic depth, but it probably also won't help them much, everyone and their dog agreeing that the League will shatter soon.
  • The Malwa in Belisarius Series. In fact it seems that the main job of most Malwa soldiers is getting killed.
    • Venandakatra the Vile, Malwa commander of the forces in the Deccan, is explicitly stated to care as much for his soldiers as he does for insects. The one time he refrains from attacking, it's because he'll run out of reserves if he does. Another example comes from fellow General Failure Lord Jivita. At the Battle of Babylon, he throws his troops against the walls of the city, getting a truly massive number of them slaughtered.
  • Interesting subversion in Ender's Game. Ender, nearing a mental breakdown from stress, is given a wargame situation where the enemy outnumber his forces 1,000 to 1. Trying to be removed from the strain, he orders a suicide mission that destroys the enemy homeworld... except the simulations he's trained with since graduating from Battle School haven't been simulations at all, and he's sent almost the entire attack force on a suicide mission that destroys the enemy home planet. When this is revealed to him, he lapses into a coma.
    • This is foreshadowed by a battle in Battle School, in which Ender's army is forced to fight two deeply-entrenched armies. Realizing that even his genius tactics can't defeat them, he has the entire army make a formation and charge the enemy lines. Just in case, he has five boys perform the victory ritual if they can get close enough to the enemy gate. Surprisingly, he wins, although most of his army is "destroyed". Colonel Graff then changes the rules requiring the other army to be fully "destroyed" before victory can be declared. Ender explains that he didn't expect to win and has a mini-breakdown after that, refusing to participate in battles.
    • In Shadow of the Hegemon, this is the strategy used by the Indian army when invading Burma, and everybody is quick to point out how stupid it is. Just because you have the world's largest army doesn't mean your supply lines are up to the task, especially if the enemy keeps harassing them. This is all part of the Big Bad's Evil Plan in order to allow China to strike and take India in under a week before proceeding to take Thailand. Strangely, the book takes the Adults Are Useless approach, with no adult seeing how bad this strategy is.
  • Jaime Lannister of A Song of Ice and Fire may be trying to go the route of The Atoner, but when he finds himself caught between two oaths he means to keep (never raising arms against a certain family, and as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, ending that family's defiance of the King), he tries to Take a Third Option and convince the enemy lord to surrender without a battle by giving a To the Pain speech full of how he'll win due to We Have Reserves.
    You've seen our numbers, Edmure. You've seen the ladders, the towers, the trebuchets, the rams. If I give the command, my cousin will bridge your moat and break your gate. Hundreds will die, most of them your own. Your former bannermen will make up the first wake of attackers, so you'll start your day by killing the fathers and brothers of the men who died for you at the Twins. The second wave will be Freys, I have no lack of those. My westermen will follow when your archers are short of arrows and your knights so weary they can hardly lift their blades.
    • Speaking of the Freys... They kind of have this attitude about members of the family they don't particularly like, too. Well, there are a lot of members any particular one won't get along with at any time, after all. They'll all use a family death (or deaths) for a way to get something out of the situation, even if it's only satisfying a sense of Disproportionate Revenge down the line. On top of the feeling that there is safety in numbers, the Freys also combine this with a will to remind people they exist by sticking their noses in wherever they can. Which is not that bright, as pointing out how many of you there are to people who detest your very marrow might get you deliberately used as Cannon Fodder. As highlighted by Jaime, above. Enough of that kind of thing happening, and even the Freys will eventually run out of reserves, let alone key players.
    • Tywin Lannister also used this at times; for example, putting all the least experienced and least disciplined soldiers on the same flank so that enemy will break their lines and rush into a trap. For extra Kick the Dog points, he set his son Tyrion to lead them without informing Tyrion of the plan.
      • Subverted however as he realizes that while he'll eventually defeat Robb Stark due to sheer numbers and that he can afford losses whilst Robb can't, the loss of troops from doing so means that he won't be able to keep control of Westeros due to his armies being exhausted and diminished, so he sets in plan The Red Wedding
  • The Posleen from John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata are genetically engineered just for this tactic. However, the trope is averted at one point, when a group of semi-trained human soldiers are blocked by a small number of Posleen, and refuse to move forward. A General arrives, and orders a soldier to advance so they can locate the Posleen's location. When the soldier refuses, the General kills him. He then orders a second soldier to advance: the soldier and several of his fellow soldiers do so, and take the Posleen position with a few additional casualties. When he is asked about killing the first soldier, he says that taking the position cost some soldiers their lives, both from the Posleen and from him, but *not* taking the position would have allowed the Posleen to wipe out the entire squad and more soldiers behind them. He is not happy that he had to kill the soldier, but he stated that his way far fewer soldiers died.
  • A plot point in several of the Heralds of Valdemar books:
    • The Black Gryphon: One of the generals thinks nothing of throwing the flying troops (the gryphons) into hopeless situations, and forcing mages to spellcast into exhaustion. Most of the army believes this is due to incompetence with some Fantastic Racism thrown in; in actuality, it's due to a lot of Fantastic Racism and a secret Face–Heel Turn.
    • By The Sword: Kerowyn reads the mind of her mercenary company's employer and finds that he plans to sacrifice them to avoid paying them. She resigns via an Insignia Rip-Off Ritual, and the entire company follows her.
    • Ancar of Hardorn is absolutely ridiculous about this (and several other things), and his troops only go along with it because they are brainwashed. When some of the good guys manage to release the brainwashing on a company of troops, they apply this trope to themselves and attack the rest of the army with no heed to their own safety, having nothing left to live for.
    • In Winds of Fury, Big Bad Mornelithe Falconsbane becomes an unwilling ally of Ancar and ends up turning the latter's existing tactics Up to Eleven, virtually guaranteeing Valdemar's destruction by Zerg Rush unless the heroes can assassinate the entire leadership of Hardorn. Though before suggesting that strategy, he first confirms that Ancar has reserves - he at least is pragmatic enough to understand that when you have a limited supply of troops, you need to take better care of them.
  • In the Sword of Truth series, the Imperial Order has this methodology, partly because they believe the next best thing to killing unbelievers is to die while killing unbelievers, partly because they believe individuals are worthless, and partly because the army is so massive that even if they lose a million men, that's still barely a dent in their forces.
  • An attacking goblin horde in Piers Anthony's Castle Roogna used a rather literal goblin-wave tactic — they crossed the moat by filling it up with drowned goblins, and scaled the wall by climbing over each other until the army was running up a huge pile of trampled-down goblins.
  • Several commanders in Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels.
    • In First & Only, Dravere is explicitly described as saying that if he could throw enough bodies at the Eye of Chaos, he could close it. The attack of the Jantine Patricians at the climax, to overwhelm the Ghosts' Hold the Line forces, puts it into action.
    • In Ghostmaker, Sturm orders the bombardment of an area where he knows the Ghosts are operating on the grounds that they have enemies in there. He specifically regards the Ghosts, and Gaunt, as trouble he would be well rid of.
    • In Armour of Contempt, a wave of Imperium troopers, so tightly packed that the dead were carried along, unable to fall where they died, assault the walls of a city several times. Eventually, they are successful, but at horrible cost.
  • This is the default tactic of both Saruman and Sauron's armies in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. The command style of the Lord of the Nazgûl during the Siege of Gondor: "Yet their Captain cared not greatly what they did or how many might be slain; their purpose was only to test the strength of the defence and to keep the men of Gondor busy in many places." The passage also notes that as he's riding on his horse he deliberately tramples the fallen (who would mostly be his own men), which says something about his attitude.
    • JRRT was a veteran of WWI and was wounded at the Somme. 'Nuff said.
  • Used in World War Z by both the Russian and Chinese armies, often to horrifying effects. If one didn't know that both those countries have a history of such tactics, (see the real life section below), they might think Max Brooks was making it up or had an ax to grind with those countries.
    • The primary problem with using this strategy on zombies is that they use the exact same tactics by instinct, and they recruit by killing. So by sending your own people to die, you inflate the ranks of your enemies. Though, logically, as long as your kill ratio is positive, it'll work.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Encarmine, Iskavan is told that he and his Word Bearers had been sacrificed to lure the Blood Angels to Shenlong, and having served that purpose, they will get no reinforcements. Then, Iskavan's reaction to the news is to start a rampage with women, children, and the wounded.
    • In Deus Sanguinius, the Warmaster points out that he sacrificed them for this. He gets no sympathy.
  • The Big Bad in any David Eddings series will inevitably have this mindset. In the backstory of The Belgariad, the Dark God Torak marched millions of Angaraks off to the West in a suicidally insane war that left not one survivor to return to the East. In The Malloreon, his successor as Child of Dark, Zandramas, similarly views her minions as utterly expendable, sending them to certain death against the heroes multiple times simply to slow them down, or on the off chance that one of them will get lucky and prevent her from having to see the Prophecy to its conclusion. The demons in that series behave this way with respect to the human troops under their "command", force marching them for days without a care for the death and suffering — or rather, reveling in it.
  • Emperor Ezar Vorbarra in Shards of Honor has this mindset and takes this trope a step further — he has the army mount a hopeless, bloody attack on another planet in order to get his insane son killed off without anyone suspecting assassination, as well as stamp out the more warmonger political factions in general. Too bad about all of the other soldiers who were killed ...
  • An interesting example from Iain M. Banks' The Player of Games: the protagonist is freaked out when he realizes how much the Emperor personifies this trope, even though the reserves he so casually sacrifices aren't people but pieces in a very elaborate game. The reason he is freaked out is that the game is expressly designed to mirror the player's values and philosophy — meaning that the superficially charming and civilized Emperor has revealed himself as Ax-Crazy.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 novel Chapter War, the Howling Griffons' attitude toward the 901st Regiment. Admittedly a penal unit, but they send them up against space marines — twice.
  • Empress Jadis in The Magician's Nephew brags that she "poured out the blood of her armies like water" in the civil war with her sister for control of Charn. And then trumped that by speaking the Deplorable Word, an unspecified spell which destroyed Charn and killed everything on it except herself.
  • Subverted in the Legends of Dune trilogy, where Omnius and his Thinking Machines fight battles in a logical and efficient manner. A massive fleet will not engage the inferior enemy if the casualties are above the acceptable parameter, even though machines aren't really supposed to care about casualties. It falls to his ruthless Brain in a Jar generals, who do fit this trope, to come up with tactics that surprise the enemy. One of their tactics — dropping a cruiser on a city to destroy the scrambler field emitters that are keeping the machine forces from invading. On the other hand, the Butlerian Jihad forces will not hesitate to lose hundreds of lives to destroy several machines, as exemplified by the takedown of the Humongous Mecha Ajax by hundreds of angry slaves armed with primitive rocket launchers and more primitive clubs.
  • The Draka use their slave soldiers (called "janissaries" in reference to the Ottoman military units) in attrition situations that their elite shock troop Citizen army cannot finesse, thereby saving the much more precious lives of the Master Race. A Draka officer is reprimanded at one point for showing too much concern for the lives of his janissaries. Eventually the Draka engineer aggressiveness out of their slaves, and the janissaries are replaced by the part-baboon, part-dog, part-human ghouloons who serve much the same purpose.
  • Cultural-divide example in Codex Alera: when the Marat go to war, the first wave of an attack is always the green recruits, the warriors who most recently became of age. The ones who survive that are considered to have been smiled on by The One, and get to participate in the battle proper.
  • In Shadowmarch, Autarch has no qualms about letting his soldiers die meaninglessly, as long as he accomplishes his goal. During the siege of Hierosol, he ordered full scale attack through the breach in city's walls, despite being warned of massive casualties it will cause among his troops. He explained that his soldiers should be happy to fight and die for their autarch.
  • This trope is mixed with Spare to the Throne in The Horse and His Boy: The Tisroc isn't concerned about Rabadash dying — he has sired other potential heirs.
  • This seems to be the attitude of the Young Army in Septimus Heap, given the callous disregard for survival they have.
  • In Redwall book The Outcast of Redwall, Swartt Sixclaw operates with this mentality. Unfortunately for him, this leads to him running out of reserves.
  • Used in the backstory of Glasshouse. When every soldier you have is a killbot who can be run by the backup memory engram of one of your soldiers, and materiel synthesis for said killbots is only as limited as the amount of energy you can draw from any given source of nuclear energy (up to and including the hearts of stars), "We Have Reserves" is less of a viable tactical option and more of an inevitability. It's eventually implied that there may have been copies of as few as two or three different people on the front lines of the army in question, taking this trope and the spoilered trope far beyond their reasonable conclusions.
  • Subverted in Chaos Walking. Mayor Prentiss' army consists of approximately 1,000 people plus some artillery. He has no reserves to speak of but he acts as if he commands a significantly larger force, even manipulating events to manufacture a war against an army that outnumbers him approximately 20-1.
  • This was how humanity was able to defeat the Elves in the Ryria series. Elves are superior to humans in every way (stronger, faster, tougher, more technologically advanced, and better at magic), but the humans could replenish their losses in twenty years, while the elves would take millennia. As one of the heroes put it, "the elves were drowning in a floodtide of humanity."
  • In The Stormlight Archive, Highprince Sadeas uses slaves to carry the storming bridges needed to cross the chasms that divide the Shattered Planes. This involves running straight at the enemy army, while carrying a bridge over your head, while they're shooting at you, then putting the bridge in place and getting out of the way of the real soldiers. Every bridge the enemy takes down decreases the army's ability to deploy. Naturally, this is always a bloodbath, and it takes Kaladin a while to figure out why it's done this way, and why the slaves are denied armor: Sadeas deploys an excess of bridges, so that the Parshendi have no realistic chance of taking down enough to stop the army. But the Parshendi aren't disciplined soldiers, and the idea of taking down a bridge is tempting enough that they still try. If they armored the bridgemen, they'd be more likely to realize it was futile and start shooting at the soldiers. As far as he's concerned you can always get more slaves; soldiers aren't so easily replaced.
  • Averted in The Art of War, which cautions that while you have to be willing to take casualties when it becomes necessary, a great general is one who tries to win with as little blood shed on either side as possible. Even if you do have reserves, it's more pragmatic to keep as many men alive in an engagement as you can, because that way you still have reserves in the next battle.
  • In Moonlight Mile from the Kenzie and Gennaro Series, Yefim, a Professional Killer/The Dragon for The Mafiya uses the threat of this combined with We Are Everywhere to chilling effect when he describes how his men will be able to both find and kill the daughter and in-laws of main character Patrick Kenzie.
    You don't think we watch you? You don't think we have friends in Savannah? We have friends everywhere, guy. And yeah, you got that big crazy Polack protecting your little girl so we lose a couple of guys taking them out. But that's okay-we get more guys.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, Rico tells how the Bugs that are fighting against the humans would send soldier arachnids out radioactive exit holes to attack even if the exposure level was so high that mere exit would expose their soldiers to lethal levels of radiation.
  • In the Paradox Trilogy, in Fortune's Pawn Devi accuses antagonist John Brenton of treating the men under his command as disposable meat-shields and ordering them to certain death. Brenton responds that Devi's own employer, Caldswell, treats his men the same way. Devi doesn't believe him, but learns in Honor's Knight that Brenton wasn't entirely lying.
  • In the Cross-Time Engineer series by Leo Frankowski, the Polish gunboats with Steam Punk weaponry are massacring the Mongol invaders trying to cross the river Vistula, but they just keep coming. The Poles assume the Mongols are Not Afraid to Die, as a Mongol ambassador ordered several of his men to cut their own throats just to prove this point. What they don't know is that the enemy commanders are using Polish prisoners and soldiers from nations they've already conquered as Cannon Fodder.
  • Necromancers and the Greater Dead in the Old Kingdom tend to consider their Lesser Dead minions extremely expendable, epitomized in the third book when Hedge sacrifices hundreds if not thousands of his Hands to ensure the Sealed Evil in a Can he's transporting is protected from the Anti-Magic effects of the Wall. Of course, Hedge and his ilk have no shortage of troops at their command - after all, the Dead are many.
  • Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 by Max Hastings. The Soviet commanders Konev and Zhukov were racing each other to Berlin. According to Hastings, Zhukov won because he was more willing to spend his soldiers' lives for his own glory.
    The capture of Berlin displayed outstanding generalship by Konev, not by Zhukov. In his yearning for glory and in his desperation to satisfy Stalin, 1st Belorussian Front’s commander battered the enemy into submission through human sacrifice, not manoeuvre.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Robb Stark's first major battle is won after he lures Tywin Lannister away with a tenth of his force knowing that this tenth is certain to be slaughtered. Robb does this because he knows that with Tywin's army distracted he can overwhelm the smaller army led by Tywin's son Jaime.
    • Similar to Longshanks in Braveheart, Ramsay Bolton (the main human villain of seasons 5 and 6) orders his archers to fire volleys into the battlefield where his cavalry are engaging Jon Snow's smaller, ragtag army. This serves two purposes: first, as Jon's army is half the size of Ramsay's, Jon's side can't suffer the losses while he can. Second, the dead from both sides also form a wall of corpses, which is then used to box Jon's army in and leave them with no escape while a large unit of heavy infantry advances on them behind a shield wall, and come very close to completely wiping out Jon's army. However, the use of this trope ultimately dooms him, since his volleys wipe out his cavalry, leaving his infantry helpless when mounted reinforcements sent by the Vale to aid the good guys.
    • While power is measurable by many standards, no other family can match House Tyrell for sheer numbers. The Reach is the breadbasket of Westeros, so it can sustain a large population of people and animals (like horses). The Tyrells, by themselves, can muster about 15,000 men, cavalry and infantry, meaning that (given feudal economies), they probably hold personal fief (i.e. have no other vassals between them) over at least 100,000 peasants. And then you throw their bannermen into the mix...Much like real-life France (which they're sort of an expy for) the Reach has twice the numbers as the next largest kingdom, but they've also got twice as many hostile borders, facing the Westerlands, the Stormlands, Dorne, and a close ocean border with the Iron Islands (most other kingdoms only border two other major ones, i.e. the Stormlands border the Reach and Dorne) so the advantage evens out. Moreover, they don't have many major defensive boundaries with their neighbors: the mountains of the Westerlands, and the Red Mountains of Dorne, are a barrier to invasion by the Reach but not the other way around. The Mander River runs east-west instead of north-south, so it does not present a strong defense against invasion from the Stormlands.
    • House Lannister muster 60,000 men when the hostilities begin and every time the Starks and the Tullys shatter a Lannister host (which happens in several battles), they just raise another. When the Tyrells come into the war on the Lannisters' side this is literally true, since the Reach is (in terms of area) the largest region of Westeros after the sparsely-populated North, as well as the most fertile and densely populated. Best summed up by the opposition in Season 3: Edmure Tully tells Robb Stark that they've been inflicting more Lannister casualties than they've taken, but the angry retort is "WE NEED OUR MEN MORE THAN TYWIN NEEDS HIS!" Of course, even though they've won the war, the heavy casualties ended up being proportionately high enough to leave them tapped for manpower and weakened for garrisoning Westeros.
  • Blackadder: this is outright stated to be the entire basis of British tactics in the First World War. Bonus Bastard Points for the instructions, "Climb out of the trench and walk very slowly towards the enemy," the phrase "Operation Certain Death", the apparent fact that it's taken Field Marshall Haig three years to realise that, "Everyone gets killed in the first ten seconds," and the portrayal of Haig formulating his battle plans in the last episode by setting up toy soldiers on a table and sweeping them off. And lets avoid making comparisons between this fictional portrayal and the real life Haig.
    • In the very first episode of the first series which also critisised the craziness of war there is King Richard III who despite not being as bad in this version as in the Shakespearean one, he is still ruthless enough to be pretty koshier about the lives that will be lost calling them arrow fodder and even willing to send his nephew there because he didn't like him.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel:
    • Spike and Holland Manners give speeches to the respective protagonists about how evil works like this: that every apocalypse they prevent will surely be followed by another one and that they have an unlimited number of soldiers on their side, all who need just one good day to kill them.
    • When the three wrathful goddesses are unleashed by the Slayer army against Twilight's soldiers, the general immediately wants to retreat. Twilight tells him no, since he wants to see what the goddesses will do to the soldiers.
    • After killing one of his own, D'Hoffyrn says there are many Woman Scorned out there, so he will always have more vengeance demons.
    • Quentin's view on Slayers.
  • Doctor Who: Like most tropes, this shows up, sometimes on the Planet of Hats. Still, a human example: Henry Van Statten seems less concerned with his guards than he is with a certain relic they're fighting for their lives against. Subverted Trope: The foolishness of this begins to dawn on him when he orders them to take the relic alive, only to realize that nobody's left to take the order.
  • NCIS: An interesting variation of this happened, during the investigation aboard the ship they weren't allowed to know about. After they recover the nuclear weapon and leave, a missile blows up the secret ship. One of them asks, "How did they know we got off?" The answer? "I don't think they knew."
  • Revolution: In episode 3, the Monroe militia captain Jeremy Baker's squad has besieged the rebels' hideout. The militia was armed with primitive weapons, while rebels got their hands on an advanced sniper rifle. His solution: hope that the sniper would run out of ammo before the militia ran out of men. While Baker never had any formal military training, he had spent the last 10+ years as a soldier so should have learned basic military tactics.
  • Robin of Sherwood: In one episode, when Robin Hood threatens to kill some of his Mooks, the Sheriff coldly replies: "Soldiers have a way of dying; it's an occupational hazard."
  • Smallville: One episode had a teaser sequence with Lex Luthor testing his latest experiment. The test involves the Super Soldier charging down a hallway, killing mooks, breaking into a heavily fortified room and assassinating a target. When it's over, what does Luthor say with glee? "Get fresh guards...I wanna see him do it again"
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • The Vorta Keevan gives the heroes his battle plan because being taken prisoner would be better for him than being stranded and wounded with a bunch of Super Soldiers about to go Ax-Crazy from withdrawal. Particularly nasty since his soldiers are warned that they've been betrayed, but are too loyal themselves to disobey. And the genetically engineered Jem'Hadar were programmed to see themselves as disposable, all willing to attain victory for their gods The Founders at any cost.
    • One Jem'Hadar mentioned that they are combat ready days after their "births" and managing to live to twenty makes a Jem'Hadar an honored elder. In the several thousand year history of the Dominion, no Jem'Hadar has ever lived to be thirty (though that might have a different explanation).
  • The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager have no regard for the lives of individual drones, any more than a human would fret the loss of a few cells. If they die, the Collective learns from their deaths and adapts, making those that remain less likely to die and more likely to assimilate those that felled their comrades.
    • The Borg Queen takes this to idiotic heights in "Unimatrix Zero". When Voyager's antics have resulted in a small fraction of the Collective being freed from her control, she tries to coerce Janeway into helping her rectify it by self-destructing Cubes filled with thousands of drones just to kill one or two in each ship. Janeway logically pointed out that she'd have to blow up the entire Collective to get them all with that strategy, so she changed tactics.
    • The ship the Borg children were found on was infected by an unknown pathogen. When the children relayed this information, the Collective promptly severed their link and left them for dead, deeming the pathogen too great a risk to consider rescuing a few incomplete drones and a half-functioning vessel.
  • Andromeda: The Magog employ this tactic, as their worldship has trillions of them and billions of swarm ships. Lampshaded in the first episode of season two:
    Rommie: We have driven off the first wave of Magog assault ships.
    Dylan: Yeah, but the Magog can always send more. Magog suck.
  • Red Dwarf. For all Rimmer's obsession with war and military strategy, the one time he leads an army consisting entirely of wax droids, he has almost all of them charge across a minefield under cover of daylight as a distraction while Kryten and Mother Theresa infiltrate the enemy headquarters to take out Hitler and co. The nun dies, but Kryten manages to rig the thermostat to melt all of the wax droids. As a result, Rimmer's actions wipe out everyone on the planet. When he claims that the menace that plagued the planet has been vanquished, Lister counters with "No it's not. You're still here."
  • The first episode of season 3 of The Musketeers opens with the musketeers at the front of the war with Spain, and Athos arguing with a general who wants them to keep charging at the enemy despite the fact the Spanish have cannon and they don't.
  • Elementary: In season 5, Shinwell explains to Sherlock his relationship with his gang SBK started with one of their lieutenants taking him in and giving him a purpose. Then he helped find young men in need of a place and guidance, and inducted them into the gang. Then when he did time for the upper bosses, he saw the young men who he "gave a purpose to" coming into prison soon too. And the ones they recruited. And so on. Shinwell realizes from this to the top brass of the gang, there will always be some desperate kid who they can mold into a useful tool but discard when need be.
  • The Man in the High Castle: When the Nazi German leadership is planning an imminent nuclear attack on the Japanese Empire, their analysts predict heavy loss of life in the American territories especially during the first stages of the war, in the order of tens of millions. Himmler dismisses these losses as acceptable since the Americans are a "late addition" to the expanded Nazi empire.

  • Referenced in the Union version of The American Civil War song Battle Cry of Freedom:
    "We'll fill the vacant ranks with a million Free Men more!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • The Imperial Guard commonly employ this tactic; Commander Chenkov of Valhalla in particular has a reputation for throwing away the lives of his men, the gaining of which is quite a feat for a Guard commander, though at least he has the balls to dive into the meatgrinder with them and lead from the front. The fluff claims that his bolt pistol has killed more cowards than enemies, and that he once took a fortress that had withstood siege for years without artillery or armoured support at the cost of 10 million casualties (though this is the Imperium we're talking about - they could cover those losses with one round of draft slips). The new Codex highlights his knack for reserves by giving him the special rule "Send in the next wave!", which allows him to call up a new squad of Conscripts once the previous squad has been wiped out, as described wonderfully by 1d4chan:
      "Do you want to take that point? I mean, REALLY take that point? Seriously, how many dudes do you want to throw at that point? Chenkov can throw that many guys at the point, AND MORE."
    • Then there is the Skitarii Legions of the Adeptus Mechanicus. While Skitarii are cybernetically enhanced to extreme levels and have better armor than the Imperial Guard the Mechanicus doesn't care what happens to them and neither does the Skitarii themselves. They are usually cloned or artificially grown and their emotions are reduced. Death of a Skitarii is nothing more than a way of learning about the enemy. The Skitarii vanguards carry Radium weapons that poison them by just carrying them despite their radiation protected armor slowly killing them. It gets worse in Onager Dunecrawlers where the driver is connected to the machine and is placed in a electro-amniotic tank where he is slowly killed by harmful energies and is soon replaced like replacing batteries.
    • Also, the Orks, whose entire warfighting strategy is "assault the enemy with troops stretching back past the horizon." In Dawn of War, Warboss Gorgutz is actually lauded by his own troops for being willing to hurl countless numbers of Boyz at enemies like the Space Marines and Necrons, fully aware that many are going to die. It helps that Orks consider an exciting battle against a worthy opponent to be jolly good fun. Gretchin are considered even more expendable than Orks. One use for Gretchin mobz in past editions was removing minefields in much the same way as a stick removes a bear trap. If there were more mines than gretchin, they died to no notable effect, generally prompting loud bursts of Orkish laughter. The Gretchin have several other delightful jobs, such as being stepping stones in rough terrain, bullet shields, and emergency rations.
    • Tyranids. Some of the Tyranid flavor text has them sending mooks to assault enemies, just to make them use up their ammunition before sending in the big guns. As a matter of fact, those same mooks have no digestive tract; they are not intended to survive the battle they're built for, and if by some fluke they do, the more important creatures just eat them when their purpose is served. Any Tyranids that the hive fleet sends to attack a planet are just going to be digested and recycled into new Tyranids, so it's not quite as asshole-ish as some of the other examples.
      • The 4th edition Codex even gave Gaunts (The Nids' ranged mooks) the Without Number rule as a buyable upgrade; if a unit with the rule was wiped out, you were allowed to put a new unit just like it on the field.
      • The 5th ed fluff for the Gargoyle describes a siege on a heavily guarded fortress world by the Tyranids. The gribblies won because they sent in so many flyers that their corpses blocked laser cannons capable of punching through a moon.
    • The Lost and the Damned faction of Chaos is explicitly employed this way, as it is essentially composed of gibbering mutants, demons (who can't be killed, only sent back to the Warp), and human traitor rabble. Generally they run at Imperial forces who waste ammunition gunning them down. More disturbingly they usually do so with a smile on their face.
    • In fact, out of the whole 40k universe, the Tau, Space Marines, and the Eldar are remarkable for the fact that they don't have reserves. The Tau get around this by using someone else as their Reserves, the Space Marines have support from the Imperial Guard and are mostly used for tactical strikes anyway, while the Eldar cope by using stealth, guerilla tactics or - even better - just tricking someone else into fighting their battles for them. For everyone else, though, it's mainly just lots and lots of reserves. The Necrons also don't have reserves, since they have no way of making more of their own kind outside of converting the rare blank into a pariah. They make up for this with teleportation and auto-repair technology, ensuring that no Necron is ever permanently destroyed.
    • Even the Dark Eldar have reserves, in a weird way (though not usually in tabletop terms). Almost all of the Dark Eldar race are clones quickly and cheaply, with live born children (called Trueborn) are considered special and are pampered and taken care of (and get their own unit). Oh and if you kill one of the leaders, so long as they get some of the corpse (not all, some) back to the Haemonculi within a certain amount of time (usually a day) then the Haemonculi can regenerate their entire body. So even if you kill the leaders, they'll be back later. Some Haemonculi have considered death to be an interesting experience. Reserves indeed.
    • The logical reaction to 7th edition's new Daemonology lore, which allowed any army to summon Daemons to fight for them. Daemons of Tzeentch are troops that can be summoned and can summon daemons. In about 3 turns one player managed to double his army and proceeded to charge Orks with his Horrors. Reiterating; he charged dedicated combat troops with squishy wizards, and won.
    • The Iron Warriors had such a reputation for using attached forces as sacrificial pawns that they were nicknamed the "Corpse Grinders". This was before the Horus Heresy, and falling to Chaos just made even worse. Eventually Horus gave the order that Iron Warriors forces would be accompanied by penal battalions, enslaved rebels, and other units the nascent Imperium could live without. The Iron Warriors are arguably one of the more unpleasant legions because even if the other legions are amoral and often insane bastards, they still value brotherhood and honour: when the Iron Warriors march to war, everybody is expendable; fellow astartes are to serve before they become a statistic at best and rivals at worst, and humans are slaves, expendable conscripts and things to be chewed up and spat out by the war apparatus. At the Siege of Castellax, the Iron Warriors actually referred to their mortal servants simply as "flesh".
    • There is one faction that largely ignores this trope: the Alpha Legion. Most Chaos legions simply use cultists as fodder, meant to run at the guns and reduce their ammo so the enemy have less to fire when the traitor astartes turn up. The Alpha Legion actually train and arm their cultists, and they are frighteningly effective, eespecially at guerilla warfare. Alpha Legion doctrine states that every resource must be used to its fullest potential and never be wasted, unless sacrificing the resource is the surest way to achieve the long term objective. The Alpha Legion are, in a tactical sense, 40k's Only Sane Man.
    • The spinoff Gorkamorka has the very weedy Rebel Grots, whose big tactical advantage is coming in much larger groups than others can.
  • The Skaven from good old fashioned Warhammer have a Slave Mooks unit with a rule called life is cheap which lets their player bypass the game's taboo for shooting into close combat. Which doesn't seem quite that impressive until you realize they're one of the few armies with ready access to Gatling guns and flame throwers in the game's medieval setting.
    • This is a bit of an interesting example in that sacrificing their own troops is actually a necessity. Skaven are designed for it, breeding like the rodents they are based off of and eating more than the average human due to their high metabolisms. If not for this they would suffer from severe overpopulation and political instability (well, more than usual) as a result. This doesn't mean they aren't evil.
    • In the background Dark Elves do this with slave troops (one story has them herd their recently captured slaves onto the battlefield where they shoot them down to serve as cover, interfere with the enemies cavalry and to demoralise the enemy (it works)) though it doesn't happen in the game itself.
    • Chaos Dwarfs also have disposable slave troops, mostly Hobgoblins but other Goblinoid races as well, while they couldn't fire into combat they did have a large amount of area of effect weaponry that was fairly indescriminate, also in past itinerations they had a magic item that caused Hobgoblin heroes to explode........
    • Vampire Counts tend to use skeletons and zombies to this effect, often the same skeleton or zombie several times over. Interestingly the Vampire Counts treat themselves as expendable because even if you can kill one with a method that would kill a vampire and they lose their magical resurrection ring to stop them coming back, they can still come back from the dust they were reduced to by absorbing enough life force. Ironically they don't tend to treat their living subjects like this: few living people willingly associate with the undead, and for a vampire lord, having loyal mortal servants who can operate in plain sight (and daylight!) and further your interests is a valuable asset. Not to mention pointlessly sending peasants to their deaths when you can easily send some skeletons or zombies in their place just emboldens the living against the midnight aristocracy. Vampire Vannabes beware, as your master can easily find (or make) a new vampire servant, but that Renfield he keeps around is nigh-irreplaceable.
    • Orcs and Goblins in Warhammer Fantasy. Green life is cheap.
    • As is that of the Bretonnian peasants. Fortunately they have longbows and can kill at distance and run away should things get queasy.
  • Kobolds in Dungeons & Dragons tend to use such tactics, since they are possibly the weakest and fastest-breeding humanoid race. The soldiers are proud to do it, too.
    • This is expanded upon in the sourcebook Races of the Dragon — Kobolds intentionally cultivate the opinion that they are weak and pathetic so that people will leave them alone or otherwise underestimate them, but at the same time, an individual kobold's outlook on life is that it doesn't matter if he dies, as long as his city survives. This pseudo-communist outlook covers all of kobold society from the top down, and influences kobold city defense — the older (and thus, not as likely to breed) kobolds will happily throw themselves en masse at an enemy to give the rest of the city enough time to escape.
    • Goblins are likewise content to get mowed down en masse because they breed even faster than kobolds. Orcs do it too, but mainly just 'cause they're dumb, overconfident, and have no sense of tactics.
    • 4th Edition has a feat for players which increases the power of area attacks if you include allies in the area. Reserves or not, you're expendable if I want my +2.
      • There are a lot of area attacks in 4E that ONLY target enemies. Chilling Cloud for example allows Wizards to target enemies in melee without risking damaging their allies. Invokers, Divine Controlers, specialize in these sort of 'party safe' spells and can benifit greatly from Coordinated Fire without invoking this trope.
  • The Cheiron Group in Hunter: The Vigil hire people to go capture supernatural creatures for experimentation... with their only preparations being a book filled with half-truths and outright fables. Hey, with the way the job market is, if anyone dies, we can hire new ones!
  • YOU, the player, in Paranoia. Your life in Alpha Complex will inevitably result in you dying in a number of horrible ways, but it's okay, because you have plenty of backups where that came from.
  • Eclipse Phase may or may not count for this. Given that actually dying isn't that big of a deal, and that a fair amount of character types (robots, nano-swarms, etc) probably couldn't feel pain anyway, there is certainly a healthy disregard for the value of individual life, even though the players work for a conspiracy dedicated to preventing the extinction of transhumanity. Within the fiction of the rule books grazing team mates with plasma rifles to hit the bad guys, sacrificing yourself to buy time, straight up murdering a friend and exploding your head with an anti-matter bomb (all for the sake of the mission) shows up. And that's just in the first short story. Everyone is expendable and people dying is an accepted part of the trade and just not a big deal.
  • Pretty much how the original board game Risk works. The game mechanics are very simple: capture territory, raise an army, overwhelm your opponents, Lather Rinse Repeat.
  • In Chess, only the king matters. Players quite often sacrifice multiple pieces on their own side to ensure a checkmate.
  • How the Imperium from Strike Legion works. With the Star Republic so outnumbered that all their races pull out every stop to give advantages to their Quality over Quantity Elite Fleets and Armies, to the point that Imperial doctrine calls for 12:1 superiority against Draken fleets, and suicide ramming against heavily shielded Cheden vessels, and those aren't even the most dangerous species in the Star Republic. Even so, they're winning, because, well, They Have Reserves.
  • Averted in Victory In The Pacific for ships of both sides despite the large amounts of American reinforcements, but played straight with land-based air units, which when destroyed, sit out the rest of that turn plus the entire following turn, and then return to the game good as new. The idea is that a ship sunk is completely sunk, but a flotilla of hundreds of aircraft isn't entirely destroyed, it just takes losses to the point it has to re-form with new equipment before it is combat-worthy again.
  • In The Dark Eye a so called Admiral-Vikos-victory means to suffer higher losses than the enemy, but being able to afford it - unlike him.

    Video Games 
  • Enough Plumbers, a free online platform game, has this as part of its gimmick- with the reserves being clones of the protagonist.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin plays this straight, with everyone you're supposed to dislike being shown treating their troops like, well, pawns in chess. Meanwhile, anyone sympathetic is guaranteed to give Big Bad Caulder a lecture on the importance of human life. (The one character who says nothing either way is decidedly gray in most other aspects of characterization).
    • Hawke directly uses this line of reasoning before the battle Rain Of Fire, fought around an active volcano (to force the heroes into a land battle rather than an aerial one). And he's the most sympathetic of the villains.
    • Meta example: Mech Spam tactics. These tactics involve taking advantage of the fact that each enemy unit can kill at most one of your units per turn by using large amounts of cheap, weak mechanised infantry to block attacks on strong but fragile artillery units, which in turn can be used to kill units who attack the Mechs.
  • Suikoden II: Luca Blight kicks off the game by slaughtering his troops under a false flag.
  • The City of Villains Mastermind Archetype, 'Traps' has a move that allows you to turn your own minions into walking bombs. If you're using Zombies or Robots, they just plain blow up, while more human minions such as mercenaries, thugs and ninjas - will try to put down the bomb and run away. Which doesn't always work very well, seeing as the bombs have pretty short fuses.
    • Moreover it's the entire point of the Mastermind archetype. Your pets are disposable and easily replaced; you're not, (death may be cheap, but it's still more of a nuisance than summoning and buffing new pets after a near-catastrophe). Later averted when the class switches to a shared health bar between master and pets.
  • Command & Conquer infantry (and sometimes even tanks), thanks in particular to the Command & Conquer Economy, just mass and charge!
    • In Kane's Wrath there is a Nod subfaction, the Black Hand which even encourages this as their main tactic, given how good their infantry is, so you can eventually overwhelm nearly any enemy.
    • This trope is invoked by name in the first level of Red Alert 2's Soviet campaign when you build your first Conscript.
      Lt. Sofiya: Pay no heed to casualties Comrade Commander, for every Conscript that dies in this glorious crusade, there are a thousand more eager to replace him.
  • StarCraft: Zerg Rush! The Zerg have done enough to apply this trope as a military tactic to the point that they got their own subtrope. Ironically enough, the actual Zerg don't count as this as their troops are mindless drones under a Hive Mind.
    • The Infected Marines however fit the bill, they are created merely as human bombs to do serious damage to the enemy.
    • Starcraft's Terrans - Marines had an average of 2 seconds combat time before death, which was considered acceptable until sheer numbers of losses started to cost more to replace them all the time. Stimpacks decreased that further. The use of Medics increased that time to a respectable 5 seconds! However, the Terran Dominion considered it acceptable since their Marines are Boxed Crooks.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Kefka poisoned the water source that both Doma and sieging Empire troops used to break the siege by killing everyone.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Heidegger's response to a threat was to throw more troops at it.
    • In Crisis Core, one of the most powerful SOLDIERs escaped from one of Hojo's labs and is heading for Midgar? Send out half the army to take him down! And watch as half the army is completely devastated.
    • By the end of the original game, he doesn't have any more troops to throw at the heroes, and instead has to go into battle himself.
  • Both the undead and the demons in the Warcraft series follow that line of thinking. The undead because they can raise the casualties of both sides, the demons just don't care.
    • Especially in the case of the undead, the cannon fodder would get slaughtered and the necromancers would raise twice their number worth of skeletons. By the time the elites showed up, they'd be little left to do other than mop up.
    • The human commander who sends the Blood Elves to face the Undead with no support, because "The only good nonhuman... Is a dead nonhuman", even though the Alliance is already desperately short against the Undead already.
    • World of Warcraft features the Battle for Light's Hope Chapel, where Arthas ordered his death knights to attack in order to draw out Tirion Fordring, and when he appears explains he expected them to get cut down. As death knights are his few free-willed servants, they were not pleased.
    • And then there's the Battle of Wrathgate. Horde and Alliance finally came together to fight the Lich King at the Wrathgate, but the Lich King slew Saurfang, the leader of the Horde's army, though the rest of the fighters were holding their own. Grand Apothecary Putress interceded in the fight, launching barrels of plague at the armies, forcing the Lich King to retreat...and utterly decimating the armies of both the Horde and the Alliance, as Putress walks away saying "Death to the Scourge...and death to the living." Naturally, no one's happy about that, so along with Wrynn/Thrall, you siege the Undercity and take out Putress/Varimathras (depending on faction). This act alone severed any possibility of the two factions working together, even if the Horde had nothing to do with it.
  • Disgaea encourages you to treat Prinnies this way, what with them exploding when thrown and only ever costing 1 HL to revive after battle. Doing this doesn't even count against "Allies killed" for purposes of determining which ending you get.
    • The Nintendo Hard PSP platformer spinoff Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? uses this in an interesting way: The game has no one-ups, but instead you start with 1,000 Prinnies in reserve, with the player character being whichever Prinny happens to be next in line. You're going to need every single one of those Prinnies too, since they die in a single hit on the hardest difficulty setting (and only get two extra hits on the easier difficulty).
  • A recurring theme in the entire Metal Gear series, where the Patriots, an Ancient Conspiracy, have a tendency to view anyone as disposable. Although ironically, if you do kill enough soldiers and backup units in 2 & 3, you can stop worrying about getting an alert raised.
    • Liquid Ocelot is depicted as such in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, particularly when he hacks the System yet again in Act 2. When Vamp warns him that they don't know what could happen, particularly after what happened the last time they tried it, Liquid nonchalantly states that he's "willing to make a few sacrifices"; the end result is that several of his mooks suffer brain damage and become Technically Living Zombies. During the Act 3 mission briefing, Naomi states that Liquid in fact knew from the very beginning that said test would be a failure, and yet he chose to go through with it anyway.
  • In the "Chronicles of the Sword" mode in Soul Calibur III, your player character's emperor, Strife, becomes increasingly paranoid by your character's military successes and growing popularity, and decides to throw your character around to increasingly suicidal or demeaning battles, trying to both deny your character's unit any glory and to get them killed, despite being his empire's version of a Special Forces Unit. Ironically, the replacement he finds to oversee the battles you were commanding before he starts to try to get you killed screws the pooch on it so badly he'd probably have lost the war and gotten himself killed if your unit wasn't worth a damn.
  • Near the end of the 9th Fire Emblem (Path of Radiance), Ashnard purposefuly gives the Crimean Army an advantage by dividing his forces, just so he can fight Ike, because he is impressed by his strength.
    • The Begnion Senators in the sequel are even worse. They forbade retreating, ordered troops into volcanic caves just to see if the enemy was still alive, continued fighting after the majority of their forces retreated in direct violation of orders, so they executed him, their finest general, and when their particular province was attacked the units were more concerned about bounty than, say, living.
    • Even gameplay-wise, the AI-controlled units occasionally behave like this. The AI may send a barrage of units at your Mighty Glacier, only for them to die in one hit, but they managed to inflict 2 damage and free up the space on the map so the next unit could move there and attack. This proves to be exploitable, but annoying to anyone who gets attacked after forgetting to equip a weaker weapon instead of the fragile Infinity +1 Sword or watches ten cavaliers come from out of nowhere and murder the Glass Cannon in a narrow pass.
    • While this approach can be used by the player's side, it's not a very good idea since your forces are typically comprised of a very limited number of units (who are only rarely backed up by an AI-controlled Red Shirt Army) in a game series that features permanent death for playable units that fall in battle. However, the enemy armies will very frequently employ such tactics against you since their forces usually consist of a single named character (who serves as the boss for the given mission) accompanied by dozens of nameless Mooks who show little or no regard for their own survival while charging headlong into your path.
  • This trope is generally the basis for most battles in Supreme Commander, due to the fact that most units are very cheap and quickly built with a decent economy.
  • The generals leading the good guys in Valkyria Chronicles. The aristocratic generals really don't give a damn about the "peasant" militia and generally palm off all of the suicide missions to them. Fortunately, Welkin's superior tactical planning manages to overcome this and the generals suffer a well deserved Karmic Death.
    • The heroes aren't much better, what with not giving a rat's ass about the thousands of their own countrymen dying in a blink of an eye.
  • The Total War games run on this trope, up until Rome, you didn't have any city population so as long as you can pay for them you can just keep pumping out a never ending wave of weak cheap units you can just throw at anything until it dies (in fact in the 2D game the enemy will often run away rather than agree to a fight if you have a large enough army invading). The Newer games however do, so early on your going have to use your forces wisely but once you get your economy going and a good population grow you can just send waves and waves of green peasent solders to weaken the other nations so your vets (which you want to live) can break them.
    • That said though, avoid getting the green peasants to rout. Too many units rout at once and your Vets will break quite easily.
    • Without heavy-duty, specialized siege equipment like catapults, you're going to be forced to use these tactics when assaulting cities. Heavy infantry will need to move under constant arrow fire to bring ladders, rams, and siege towers to the walls, and then storm the walls where enemy defenders, likely including their own heavy infantry, will likely be standing and ready to chop apart the first wave to get atop the walls. Defenders also get a defensive bonus while fighting on the walls, and their arrow towers will be firing into the attackers the whole time. In short, you're going to have to commit a lot of troops to take defended walls. it's easier with siege weaponry, which can knock down walls and open up a large breach, but a strong defending force can still bottleneck the attackers and inflict heavy losses.
    • Hilarious example in Total War: Rome II. Due to a typo in the game's coding, sub-saharan African provinces had massive income, which resulted in in non-playable minor African factions steamrolling historical powers Egypt and Carthage (and occasionally annihilating Rome as well) with endless waves of cheap disposable units in campaign mode.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, General Shepherd calls in an airstrike on top of his own men to stop Captain Price and Soap from getting to him.
    Price: Since when does Shepherd care about danger close?
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Darth Malak orders the destruction of Taris despite the presence of his own troops occupying the planet (cut content would have established that the Sith organized a hasty evacuation, but no reference to it remains in the final game).
    • Another example from Malak, at the finale when he learns the heroes are rampaging through his base, he orders all of his troops, including apprentices, to attack. A surprised admiral asks if he really thinks that will work, to which he scoffs and says it is only to slow them down.
  • In Star Wars: Battlefront, there's a game mode called Galactic Conquest where either 1 player faces off against the computer or 2 players face each other trying to conquer planets one by one across the galaxy. Each planet conquered will give a different bonus that a player can use in battle. One of these is called secondary reinforcements and it has some elements of We Have Reserves. The way it works is that at several points in the battle when your troop count falls to a certain number you will suddenly get new troops added to the count, imitating a new wave of troops coming into battle. These troops seem to be even dumber and, (believe it or not) have worse AI than usual, but sheer numbers will often overwhelm an opponent or at least give the player a chance to kill off all the enemies or capture all the command posts by themself. (Nothing sucks more than being in a close battle, glancing up at the troop counts for both sides, seeing that both sides have about 40 troops left and thinking to yourself Hey, I can still win this only to see the other side suddenly get another 20 men added to their count. Cue the Oh, Crap!).
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed sums up Darth Vader's policy this way:
    Juno Eclipse: I don't understand. Why would Vader allow us to destroy so many Imperial targets?
    Starkiller: To sell the deception. Credits, starships, Imperial lives... they're all meaningless to Vader.
    • In the second game, Baron Tarko has a similar attitude.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: This appears to be standard policy for Imperial officers, Darths, and Empire officials in general. The officers shrug it off; they're just "common soldiers." The Sith don't give a bantha's rear about much else other than themselves and their power games (the Emperor is an Omnicidal Maniac who wants everything in the galaxy except himself dead), and Empire officials follow the lead of the military and Sith. Couple this with Klingon Promotion being the preferred method of advancement (it's just gauche for a non-Sith to not be sneaky about it), and the Empire does more damage to itself than it does its enemies. Manditory conscription and extensive use of slave labor is likely the only reason they managed to get off Dromund Kaas. The fact they caught the Republic by surprise (thanks to Revan and Exile having ''no backup plans'' and walking into an obvious trap) is the only reason they had any success at all.
  • In Overlord, this is your attitude towards your own Mooks. Fun ensues.
  • Many Real-Time Strategy games will end up either encouraging this in their players, or doing so as their AI. Most noticable in the first Command & Conquer game, when using ground troops against the laser towers. Laser tower = one guaranteed dead enemy soldier, or one very heavily damaged enemy vehicle, every few seconds. Infantry = lots of 'em, I can crank them out so fast I can't deploy them fast enough, and eventually.
    • While various factions in various games incur bonuses for sacrificing troops. Examples: C&C Red Alert Yuri's Revenge where Yuri can feed troops (own or mind-controlled enemies) to the Meat Grinder for cash. Starcraft and Warcraft III where Zerg and Undead can 'eat' their own troops for energy/mana.
  • Strongly averted in Company of Heroes. The costs of getting a unit or vehicle to the frontlines is much, much more than the cost of reinforcing or repairing it (compare 270 manpower units for a basic rifle company, compared to 30 units each for each member of the squad, up to five). In addition, the American units gain veteran bonuses as they survive in combat, and veterancy only survives if the unit does: if your elite unit of riflemen are all killed, they take their elite status to the grave with them.
    • COH does have an example of this trope however. The American armor commander has the "Allied War Machine" ability which, when activated, gives you free tanks to replace any that are destroyed during the duration of the ability (although there is a rather hefty munition cost to use this). Be prepared for more of this trope though when Company of Heroes 2 comes out, which takes place on the Eastern Front.
    • And on Company Of Heroes 2, the Soviet can do this through the following methods. Rapid conscription creates new conscript squads whenever one of your squads is wiped out. The conscript squad can merge with other units to serve as a reinforcement unit, which keeps them from being wiped out but lacks the armor and health stats of the squad they join. The Wehrmacht has the Ostruppen unit, a cheap spammable unit made up of "allied Axis countries to soak up bullets and serve as fodder. Subverted with the American faction which now stresses survival in their vehicle units where the crew actually gain experience and thus encourages you to save the crew as possible. The Ardennes Assault campaign expansion also stresses that further as the companies loses health every time they reinforce or take losses and it's possible to lose the company due to insufficient combat strength
  • Real Time Tactics games generally avert this trope by giving you fixed units in the game, though this gives another problem of destroyed units being lost for good (except in World in Conflict which allowed reinforcements to replace lost units). Some modern RTS also avoid the "We Have Reserves" type gameplay by taking psychological issues of individual units into account, which makes sending troops into suicide missions tactically prohibitive.
  • Mass Effect:
    • A rare example of this trope in play with a military that does value its personnel's lives. According to the Codex, fighter groups that launch torpedo bombing runs on larger ships will always suffer casualties due to virtual intelligence-controlled GARDIAN laser point defense; the only way to defeat these defenses is to overwhelm them with sheer numbers until they overheat. As a result, fighter wings always take heavy casualties when attacking an enemy fleet. Though while the first fighter waves are always hit, it's not as if everybody in the first wave dies. Indeed, because the strength of the lasers drops off the greater the distance to the target due to beam diffusion, it's rare for the GARDIAN systems to score more than a few actual kills. What generally happens instead is that the first waves of fighters take a bit of damage and are forced to return to base.
    • This is implied to be the krogan military strategy in a nutshell. There are always more krogan, forever—the only way that the Council was able to defeat them was by reducing the rate of viable pregnancies to one in one thousand, and it was still enough to sustain their population. Warlord Okeer gives us this wonderful quote, which summarizes krogan battle tactics:
      Okeer: I say let us carry the genophage with us. Let a thousand children die for every one that lives. We will climb to victory atop a mountain of our dead — for that is the krogan way.
    • Geth don't place much value on individual mobile platforms; if one is destroyed, the geth in that platform transmit their memories and experiences to the nearest carrier, and that data is uploaded to the total gestalt geth Mind Hive, effectively making the geth immortal. However, they aren't stupid - they will still try to preserve mobile platforms if possible in order to to maximize combat effectiveness and resources. Plus what happens to the programs within mobile platforms not connected to the geth collective.
      Legion: No carrier, no carrier, no carrier, no...(*thunk*)
    • If Commander Shepard has the 'Ruthless' background, his/her military claim-to-fame is being the Butcher of Torfan, where s/he ordered his/her men forward, knowing many would be gunned down, also knowing it would ensure victory. Torfan was a base used by batarian slavers responsible for hitting human colonies, and the attack is a response meant to curb this trend: Ruthless Renegade Shepard makes no apologies, as part of the "get the job done at any cost" mentality. Ruthless Paragon Shepard is somewhat haunted by the experience, but s/he believed sending a message to discourage repeats of Mindoir and Elysium was more important. Even then, Ruthless Shepard crosses (or came very close to crossing) the Moral Event Horizon anyway - s/he also killed the batarians that had surrendered.
    • Harbinger's thoughts on losing his own troops:
      Leave the dead where they fall.
      The dead are useless.
      Ignore the fallen.
      Kill one, and one hundred will replace it.
      This form is irrelevant (to his current host)
    • Interestingly, Mass Effect 3 gives us an example from a scientific perspective. A Cerberus scientist is trying to decipher the secrets behind huskification and indoctrination, some of the most advanced and dangerous examples of Reaper tech. Even though the technology is thousands if not millions of years beyond them, the fact that they have tens of millions of test subjects and a complete disregard for the lives of said test subjects allows them to make steady progress regardless.
    • The Reapers rely heavily on this for their ground troops, who are typically indoctrinated, cyborged victims of Reaper attacks; you will encounter a lot of examples where the main strategy they use to try and take a location or kill Shepard, assuming they can't have an indoctrinated agent open the doors for them, is "throw more husks/Cannibals/Marauders/Brutes at the problem until it goes away". They don't use it as often with Ravagers or Banshees, however, since after Attican Traverse: Krogan Team they have a limited supply of Ravagers, and Banshees can only be created from asari with a very rare genetic defect.
  • In [PROTOTYPE], the Blackwatch explicitly state that they are using the United States Marines as the "shock troops" for the occupation of Manhattan and the war against the infected. Their purpose is to take casualties and take the blame for the destruction of the city to cover up Blackwatch's operations. At one point, one of the Web of Intrigue nodes indicates that Blackwatch anticipates Marine casualties per week to be between one thousand to two and a half thousand. Putting that in a perspective of modern military terms, total Coalition casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom - a full-scale war against a country - were less than a thousand over a month-long period.
    • The US casualties list from March 2003 to September 2009 was 4,334. That's over 6 years. Blackwatch figure the Marines will lose that many in about three weeks.
    • The Marines are thrown a bone in the end when they get all of the credit for saving what's left of Manhattan from the Infection and a nuke.
  • The Joker is like this in Batman: Arkham Asylum, leaving his cohorts in multiple lurches without batting an eyelash, making You Have Failed Me comments as they get taken out one-by-one by Batman, and insulting anybody who fails him, including Harley Quinn. Mad Love, indeed.
  • In Metroid, this is one of the things that makes the Space Pirates a serious threat. Absolutely everyone is expendable, from mooks to commanders, as long as the goal is accomplished. They will blow up entire planets just to kill one person, and the troops down there are even ordered to stay so they can stall.
  • Notably averted in Original War from Altar Interactive, a RTS with RPG elements. In the single player game (and multiplayer with the right settings), every person who dies is actually Killed Off for Real. Each of them has a name, skills and a face. You know them. When any of them dies, it's a loss not just for the war cause (the reinforcements are very limited) but for you as the commander personally. Over the whole storyline - if you let four guys die in the first mission, you are going to have to do without them for the rest of the game. The Russian/Soviet faction in the game employ this trope quite a bit though and the Arabians even more so - even then though, the losses are permanent and the soldiers are not very happy about it.
  • The military tactics of Thomas "Stonewall" Flathead in Zork Zero seem to match this. He routinely took 90+% casualties in military operations (Mainly suppressing tax riots against his brother the King's 90+% income tax), and held unit strength up with unlimited conscription powers.
  • Mouri Motonari from Sengoku Basara refers to his soldiers as "pawns" and will sacrifice as many of them as needed to fulfil his plans without batting an eyelid. He even has the ability to attack his own troops in-game.
  • In the Fallout mythos, this is how the New California Republic eventually beat the Brotherhood of Steel after a long war. The Brotherhood possessed advanced technology (as the entire point to their order was to preserve technology over human life) but their elitist and isolationist nature meant that replacing their troops was difficult while the NCR was a republic free to conscript thousands of soldiers.
    • The Legion is a more straightforward example; whereas the NCR values even the most lowly recruit's livest, the Legion regards themselves as expendable and that anyone who tries to capture them will not get them alive.
    • During the NCR/Brotherhood war, Father Elijah employed this tactic against the NCR when trying to secure the HELIOS One power plant, mainly because he could care less about the lives of his subordinates when it comes to the possibility of obtaining valuable tech (plus just not having the military training and experience of your average Brotherhood Elder — as implied above, he tried to use reserve tactics when it was the other side that had reserves). Later on, he attempted to use this very tactic to crack the Sierra Madre, only for many to succumb to Gold Fever and start killing each other out of greed.
  • Fear Effect. The Shop, the organization Glas used to work for, sent Glas and his entire squad on a mission. Said mission caused the squad to end up in an ambush that left them all dead or captured, except for Glas. Glas tried to order the squad to abort, but it was too late. Glas unexpectedly encounters his brother Drew and Drew shoots him in the back. Drew claims that the Shop knew that the squad would be ambushed on this mission, but it sent the squad on it anyway. Glas and his squad were not informed of this. Does anyone realize how much the idea of knowing that an ambush is going to occur and not warning anyone about it makes no sense at all?
    • In the 2nd game, Baron Tarko has a similar attitude.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics has this happen a lot. Spells (positive or negative) target everything within a range, either centered on a tile or a character. Since spells have a timer before they are cast, it's possible to do a lot more damage to your own forced than to the enemy.
    • On some maps and party builds, using a "muddle" (bottling up enemy troops in a tight area using your own troops to block tiles moving out) to bomb enemies is considered a valid tactic.
  • Necromancers in Guild Wars can raise undead minions from the corpses of fallen enemies that constantly lose health. You can heal them, but the longer they live, the faster they lose health. The proper way to use them is to let them soak up most of the enemy melee attacks or using spells to make them explode when they're close to the enemy.
  • Dragon Age: This is, essentially, how the Darkspawn fight. They're a mindless horde born by the thousands, driven by a single will. The Battle at Ostagar was doomed from the start, as their tactics relied on an enemy comprised of trained soldiers, not mindless brutes who don't care whether they live or die. That's why the Blights are so dangerous. The only way to stop them is to eliminate that will by killing the Archdemon.
    • The goal of Ostagar (as far as the Grey Wardens were concerned) wasn't to break the Darkspawn but to stall them for long enough for the Archdemon to show up, so that a Warden could kill him.
  • Section 8: Prejudice: When Thorne calls in a bomber to try and kill you, it might frag some of his own troops. One of your allies points out his nonchalance about this.
  • Can be invoked by the player in Sins of a Solar Empire, especially early on. If an enemy player or CPU invades one of your planets, and you don't have a sufficiently sized fleet yet to meet them, you can start cranking out ships and send them into battle one at a time in an attempt to delay the enemy forces until your main fleet arrives, or you can build enough defenses to whittle them down. Can get expensive over time, which can be painful early on as you don't have a lot of resources coming in yet to keep making the units.
    • Alternatively, players can split their forces, and send the bulk of their forces to invade an enemy planet, while keeping a small portion behind to deal with enemy invasions, or in case their main fleet needs assistance. Which can prove to be useful should you end up fighting a multiple-front war.
    • Also, story-wise, the TEC's main strength is its ability to outproduce the Advent and the Vasari, since they are lagging far behind technologically. There is a fanfic where a TEC admiral is gleeful to discover that newer flagship models are predicted to have a loss rate of only 2-to-1 (i.e. 2 TEC ships for every 1 equivalent Vasari ship), as opposed to the previous loss rate of 4-to-1. The admiral muses that, with the TEC having a huge industrial and population base, the Vasari will soon be ground down by attrition.
  • The Punic Wars, a little-known game by the creators of Tropico, has this as the best strategy (may have been rebalanced in the sequel). Play as Carthage, train tons of the cheapest unit in the game, research an upgrade that pays you if they get killed. Your first army will be traded evenly with that of the enemy. You will come back with two armies instead, then four... you see where this is going. On large maps with many enemies, it's common to have columns of unmanaged, starved soldiers connecting your own city and several enemy towns, it's easier to recruit more than to feed them or pay for a commander to get them in formation.
  • The Heroes of Might and Magic series have always had somewhat of this mentality underlying it - after all, your troops are highly disposable, and another few hundred will pop up in your cities next week anyway. Of interest, however, is the sixth game, which simultaneously discourages this (by giving you a score bonus for minimizing or entirely eliminating losses), and allows you to re-enact the classic scenario practically detail-by-detail if you're a Might-based Haven hero. The 'Reinforcement' skill adds a number of temporary members to a chosen squad - these won't stick around after the end of the battle anyway, and thus are eminently expendable, perfect for canon-fodder. As long as the squad doesn't drop below its original numbers, you effectively suffered zero losses. And it just so happens that your upgraded ranged unit, the Sharpshooter, has a powerful attack that hits all units in a line, including your own. If firing into a melee, some of your own units are liable to be in the line of fire too. But hey - we've got Reinforcements, so it doesn't matter, does it?
  • In any Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game, you have a line of constantly respawning "creeps" who are there almost solely to take damage for the heroes (such as damage from towers). Some game actively encourage you to kill your own creeps to limit the amount of gold and experience your enemies get.
  • The "Quantity" Idea in Europa Universalis IV is all about this trope, making you able to have more troops and at the same time reinforcing any losses much faster. Going towards the Quantity side of the Quality-Quantity slider was the same idea in II and III — you get more manpower, quicker reinforcement and faster army construction, but the morale and organisation penalties means that your armies will take more and deal less damage (and likely break earlier), meaning you will need your larger armies and quicker ability to push more bodies into the fray to overcome otherwise equal foes leaning towards the Quality side.
  • At the end of Warframe's Gravidus Dilemma event, the Corpus board of directors pulled Alad V's funding not out of concern for the lives he wasted but the money he was throwing away.
    • The Grineer are very prone to this, due to being an entire faction of Expendable Clones.
  • X-COM plays with this concept. Both the original and the 2012 remake, Enemy Unknown reward the player for keeping their troops alive by making them more effective in combat. In the original, as they level up, their skills improve. In the remake, as they level up they get new classes and combat abilities, so highly trained and well-equipped soldiers will absolutely devastate late-game missions. The problem is that the road getting there is paved with the corpses of the soldiers who didn't make it that far. Rookies start out with piss-poor aim and equipment, plus you're always outnumbered by aliens, making it necessary to have reserves and Red Shirts given how death is a fairly common occurrence. To drive the point home, losing one out of four squadmates still gives a "Good" mission rating.
    • Ditto for the fan-made remake Xenonauts. No matter how hard you try or Save Scum, losses are unavoidable.
  • In Bravely Default, Dr. Qada has no problems with releasing a chemical weapon that can kill hundreds of thousands of people, both friend and foe, in order to win a war.
  • Near the end of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the almost-last-boss summons dozens - even hundreds - of minions, with the sole purpose of stalling the player until the boss can revive Demise, the actual last boss, using Zelda's life force. Technically, he doesn't actually have reinforcements, as he throws all his might against the player at once, but he still treats his troops as expendable.
  • The indie title Life Goes On has this as its central gameplay mechanic. You play as a knight going through a dungeon trying to get the treasure at the end. However, it's impossible to make it through any of the levels without dying at least once. So instead you have to die in such a way that it helps later knights to progress.
  • Fur Fighters has a bit of fun with this. In the intro to the last level of the game, General Viggo finds out to his horror that as a result of the Fur Fighters going through all the previous areas of the game, only five of presumably thousands of his bear minions are left alive. Naturally, come the level proper, there's far more than five bears for you to deal with.
  • Averted in both installments of the WarWind series. Since the player cannot just produce or breed units, it is necessary to hire basic worker units in an inn, or find a neutral settlement with possible recruits, and then train them as specialists (soldiers, scouts, etc.). Advanced units require talented recruits, which are rather hard to find. Due to this, the player quickly learns to value every single unit, even the weakest one.
  • Assassin's Creed: Standard operating procedure for the Templars, and their modern-day incarnation Abstergo Industires. It even applies to their higher ups, who they have on occasion been totally willing to leave at the mercies of an Assassin, all for the sake of their plan. Slightly justified in that they really do have reserves.
    • This even applies to their best agents. In one of the in-game files of Rogue, Agent Dacosta, one of their Elite Mooks, comments upon one historical Templar being a Sacrificial Lamb. Her immediate superior, who previously criticised his boss for this attitude, responds with "Agent Dacosta, you are all expendable".
  • In Lords of the Realm 2, peasants essentially amount to this in battle. They are extremely weak and die really easily, so are often best utilized to soak up damage for your other troops. The AI tends to make extensive use of this trope as well, particularly the Bishop.
  • In Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest a unit's health is represented by the number of soldiers she has. After a battle, the player can just spend money to replenish all of the lost health/soldiers.
  • Half-Life 2:
    • This is basically how you deal with the Combine in the Nova Prospekt level: Keep sending wave after wave of antlions after them. You don't really even have to do this on purpose for the most part; the antlions will just naturally keep spawning, follow close behind you, and attack any humanoid that's not you. However, if you're feeling particularly lackadaisical, you can also use them to clear out tripmines. (Spoiler Warning had some fun with this; see below.)
    • The Combine themselves seem to treat Civil Protection this way, sending out a "stockpile signal" (as heard from their radios) whenever you've wiped out all the officers in the area. Rarely does this result in actually sending in more troops, and only ever as a scripted event; still, you know a police force is treated as expendable when their reserves are referred to as a "stockpile".
  • In The Lord of the Rings Online, this is actually done by the good guys. If a player wants their character to run skirmishes, they have to undergo the Skirmish Tutorial. When explaining the use of your accompanying Skirmish Soldier, Chief Watcher Heathstraw cheerfully advises you "If he falls, simply call another one.".
  • A variation in Sword of the Stars. During battles, each side has a command point limit that determines how many ships and of which size it can bring to bear at the same time. The number of command points depends on a number of factors, but it's generally a must to have a command ship with you to increase it by a large factor. Furthermore, the game provides a command point bonus to the side with a vastly higher number of ships in the fleet, encouraging armada fights. This doesn't necessarily mean the ships you bring with you have to be combat ships, since you still need support ships (e.g. fuel tankers, repair), which count towards this number. So your fleet of 30 cruisers might only have 12 actual warships with the rest being support ships (they can fight, but not as effectively). But the game will still treat your fleet as having 30 cruisers. For a different effect, the Morrigi have a unique form of FTL travel that increases the fleet's interstellar speed based on how many ships are in that fleet, even if some of those ships are significantly slower on their own (i.e. they're the only race where slow ships help speed up the rest of the fleet instead of bogging it down). According to the fluff, only one ship in the fleet is actually using its void drive, with the rest pumping their power into the lead ship to boost the void drive's performance and everyone else "riding the wave". So, you can bring those obsolete ships you have from the start of the game and use them to provided that little boost of speed your new, more powerful ships need.
  • The Wyrm Master demon from Nexus Clash can summon wave after wave of disposable Imps, who are forced to take shots or blows aimed for their master. Stygia shows no signs of running out of Imps, and the Wyrm Master just has to Mana Drain the enemy to keep summoning them.
  • Mordheim: City of the Damned basically does this to the player in the main campaign. The AI generates random warbands for each mission which often contain some very strange lacklustre troops like one-armed dagger-wielding Marksmen, no match for the optimised characters an experienced player can build. However since the AI builds new warbands each time, they don't have to be concerned about casualties and risks, so they'll do a lot of underhanded bullshit intended purely to screw you in the long run like stealing your best equipment or Zerg Rushing your MVP Hero Unit to injure him badly.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, this is stated to be one of the strengths of the (generally) non-villainous Imperial Legion. While hardly made up of Canon Fodder, the sheer number of Boring, but Practical soldiers the Legion can put into battle gives it a tremendous advantage, even over enemies with superior-but-fewer soldiers. It should not come as a surprise that the Imperials have a heavy basis in Ancient Rome, who also had this as a major military strength.

    Web Comics 
  • This webcomic strip, part of the Crossover Wars.
  • Prince Ansom used this against Parson in the first book of Erfworld; and nearly succeeded, although Parson was very good at exploiting the weaknesses of that strategy:
    Parson: Ansom's thinking he can overwhelm us with numbers, but that's additive. I've been playing with this combat system for a week now. And it's all about force multipliers.
    • In the end though, Parson could only defeat the Ansom's forces completely by having his Dirtamancer and Croackamancer (meaning his earth elementalist and necromancer) work together to reanimate the dead volcano they're in. This ends up destroying both armies. It leads to a long What Have I Done period for Parson.
  • Subverted in Girl Genius:
    Tarvek: If we sacrificed every minion we had, we might take out one of them.
    Gil: That's a terrible plan!
    Minion: Thank you, sir!
    Gil: There are another twenty of them! We don't have enough minions!
    Minion: Er...
  • As Evil Overlord Card-Carrying Villain Xykon of The Order of the Stick is a very Bad Boss, he and his Dragons and allies do it repeatedly. A few examples:
    • Responding to a group of his ogres demanding to be paid by killing them and turning them into zombies.
    • Dragon Redcloak (a goblin) orders a group of hobgoblin (whom he despises) mooks up a dangerous trail so they would cause an avalanche and ensure the safety of the others. Later he sends in unarmed troops against a guard monster, so it will fall asleep after eating them, and orders a human-wave style attack against a fortified city. After one of them dies saving his life, he realizes what he's doing and reacts with horror at what he is becoming and promptly stops the wasteful spending of lives.
    • "Sacrificing minions - is there any problem it can't solve?"
    • In the Azure City siege, the death knight has hobgoblins throw themselves at the wall and die by the hundreds so that their bodies will create a ramp he can ride up.
    • In a bonus strip from No Cure For the Paladin Blues, Xykon kills a mook who has succeeded in slaying a dragon, because the XP he gained from this elevates him beyond a simple mook now—and also makes it possible for him, as a high-level caster, to get a bit of XP that he wouldn't get for killing an unleveled mook.
  • In The Red Star, Maya comments on how Command had always succeeded by sending more men to die, and they thought it would work this time, too.
  • In Terra UEC General Cole Winters orders the Jolly Roger Squadron to launch an airstrike against a major Resistance base with no backup and no hope of rescue if they survive being shot down. Since they're that good, they pull it off with only minor losses (two fighters destroyed, with one crew of two Red Shirts killed and the other crew ejecting safely and being rescued by the Resistance to become part of the main cast).
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: Bojack's gang was composed of twenty-seven members when it was formed, according to Bujin; according to the novelization, this is the reason why there were only five members left when they met the Z-Warriors.
  • Brawl in the Family provides the current page image, in a comic that shows the contrast between the Fire Emblem tactician and the Advance Wars one. The former focuses on his troops' continued survival (being in a video game where any one of the unique units can die), while the latter encourages aggressive tactics without caring about his troops' casualties, because he "can always buy more troops." The full comic can be seen here.

    Web Originals 
  • In Red vs. Blue, this is the attitude of Felix. A mercenary at heart and an Ax-Crazy bastard in his soul, Felix has no problems letting soldiers under his command die to suit his purposes. "Less partners mean bigger cuts". Ultimately, this costs the Space Pirates the battle for Chorus on two fronts; One, the Space Pirates lose so many men that their remaining forces are stretched thin, allowing the heroes to prevail. And two, his attitude eventually disgusts his Consumate Professional partner Locus so much that he has a Heel Realization and turns on him.
  • SCP Foundation: The titular organization will willfully sacrifice hundreds of its D-Class personnel when observing SCPs. many of which die in cruel and painful manners, and even if they do survive over a month they get executed anyway. Don't feel too sorry for the D-Class personnel, though — the Foundation recruits them from death row convicts, i.e. murderers and rapists, to ensure a supply of expendable, unsympathetic Red Shirts for its experiments.
  • Humourously spoofed in Homestar Runner's Show Within a Show Cheat Commandos, where Gunhaver shows absolutely no concern for the safety of the "Green Helmets":
    Silent Rip: Uh, shouldn't we go help him?
    Gunhaver: Naw, he's just one of those Green Helmets. We've got like fifty of them.
  • This is Freeza's MO in Dragon Ball Z Abridged. While he does show concern for his higher level men (even planning to send gifts to the Ginyu Force's family), his lower level men... not so much. In his first on-screen attack, he shows indifference when the Namekians are slaughtering his troops, but panics when they start targeting his equipment. Once he reaches Earth, he even kills his last henchman for no real reason. This infuriates his father not because of the loss of life or the senselessness of it, but because now they have no one to fly them home (flying is for the help).
  • The evil Kua-Toa of Tales from My D&D Campaign rely heavily on vast legions of expendable aquatic Slave Mooks to keep their Enemy Civil War going.
    • Also Inverted in the case of the Verandi invasion. The chief reason why the startling amount of resistance the humans put up was so aggravating to the Kua leadership was that the Kua are the only race that can breathe both air and water, meaning that they couldn't use their armies of expendable slaves, and were instead getting large numbers of actual Kua killed trying to hold on to their foothold.
  • As mentioned above, Spoiler Warning found it amusing that this is a common way to deal with Combine tripmines in Half-Life 2, and started quoting the examples from Shrek, Cheat Commandos, and Futurama.
  • Plumbing the Death Star's Zammit hopes to put the suicide back in Suicide Squad in "How Would You Use The Suicide Squad" by sending the squad into areas humans haven't explored because of how dangerous they are. The logic is that eventually one of the squad members will survive and be able to further the sciences with their discoveries; even if the entire Suicide Squad is killed on their adventures into the unknown, odds are Batman will have used that time to capture even more supervillains to put on the squad.
  • In Team Four Star's abridgment of the Hellsing Ultimate OVA, the Major laughs off hearing that his forces are getting eaten up, because they're Nazis.

    Western Animation 
  • In Generator Rex, White Knight is a particularly Jerky example because not only does he sacrifice the Redshirts and tell them to their face that he was doing so, he says that they themselves should be aware of that by now, and should therefore not be offended.
  • Also played for humor in Futurama with Zapp Brannigan, who once sent, in his own words, "wave after wave" of his own men to fight the Killbots, knowing that the enemies had an exact (though horrifically high) limit of how many humans they were programmed to kill before they shut down. The humor comes from the fact that this was actually seen as a perfectly viable strategy. ("Kif, show them the medal I won.") In a deleted scene from Love's Labours Lost In Space, a single Killbot, Corpse-A-Tron, is shown to have a kill limit of 999,999.
    • Another time, he actually used this tactic with SHIPS.
    • Some other examples:
    Brannigan: How many men did we lose, Kif?
    Kif: All of them, sir.
    Brannigan: Well, at least they won't have to mourn each other.
    • His men are well aware of this.
    Brannigan: Don't worry Leela, I will send in wave after wave of my own men to complete your mission! Are you with me, men?
    [complete silence from the entire mess hall]
    Voice in the back: You suck!
    Bender: Sir, I volunteer for a suicide mission! ...lousy patriotism circuit!
    Brannigan: That's commendable, son, but when I'm in command, every mission is a suicide mission!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: After speaking out against a general's plan to throw freshly-recruited troops at the front line to serve as meat-shields, not only does Prince Zuko get half his face burned off, but he gets banished and sent on a Snipe Hunt, too.
  • At the end of Beast Wars Megatron succumbs to this, killing more of his soldiers than the Maximals ever did. Presumably he assumed that when you have a giant warship and superpowers (even by Transformer standards of being big immortal war machines) you don't need a lot of help.
    • By the time of the less popular sequel series, Megatron took this to the logical extreme with his Vehicon hordes. He had so many that the Maximals tore dozens into scrap metal every battle without making a dent in his overall forces.
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar special "Dr. Blowhole's Revenge", the titular villain threatens the penguins with his nearly endless supply of minions:
    Dr. Blowhole: So what if they cut down ten, twenty lobsters? We've got MORE LOBSTERS!
    • His lobster minions pause in their cheering at that statement and look a little worried. King Julien however has a similar approach to tactics and doesn't look concerned at all.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: In the episode where Aquaman appeared, when Lex Luthor was told his move would result in the deaths of several employees, he replied their families would receive compensation.
  • In the Rainbow Magic movie, Jack Frost says this in the movie, saying his snowman army is comprised of expendable weaklings that can be replaced infinitely in battle. Said army disagrees.
  • Batman: The Animated Series. Tony Zucco, (an extortionist who set up the "accident" that killed Dick Grayson's parents), shoots at Batman with a Tommy gun, even though multiple mooks are likely to be hit as well and beg him not to.
  • Birdman episode "Meets Birdgirl". While Birdman is fighting Birdgirl, her boss Doctor Mentaur orders his minion to fire hydrogen "shells" (bombs) at them, even after being warned that the bombs will hit Birdgirl too.

    Real Life 

Military — In General

  • In keeping with the Gallows Humor that is a staple of the services, in all branches of the US military a senior NCO who finds a private/seaman/airman doing something stupid can be counted on to invoke this trope with something along the lines of “Idiots like you are easy to replace, but damn it, that gear you were issued costs money!”

Military — Pre-20th Century

  • Demetrios the Besieger would throw his men at the walls of enemy cities, not out of necessity, but out of anger or thirst for glory. When his own son pointed out how his men were dying for nothing, Demetrios lashed out at him, saying "Why so distraught? Are rations due from you to the dead?"
  • An attitude similar to this served the Romans well during their expansion. While they were perhaps not as callous about it as many other examples of this trope, they were willing and able to sustain casualties that would cripple any rival state. It didn't work so well against the Germanic tribes, though.
    • King Pyrrhus won several battles over the Romans but found his army getting weaker whereas the Romans were able to use their manpower to bring their armies back up to full strength.
    • The Roman reaction to the disastrous battle of Cannae, the bloodiest day in Roman history to that point, with the virtually the entire Roman army annihilated? Raise another army and outlaw even speaking the word pax (peace). Interestingly, Hannibal, the winner of Cannae, knew it, and his entire strategy in the Second Punic War was a well-thought attempt at working around this: knowing that the Romans' numerical superiority mostly came from the troops provided by their allies in Italy, he invaded Italy with a small but well-trained and magnificently led army and started inflicting crushing defeats after crushing defeats in the attempt to scare and impress the Italian population in defecting to his side, thus stealing away Rome's numerical superiority. While partially effective, this strategy didn't cause enough defections, to the point that, right after Cannae, the Romans could effectively keep six armies in the field: one facing Hannibal and launching raids to slowly destroy his army, one in Northern Italy facing his Gaulish allies, one in Southern Italy facing the Samnites and the other populations who had defected from the alliance with Rome (this one would also occasionally fight Hannibal because most of the time he was in the area), one in Spain to attack Hannibal's base of operation, one in the Balkans to face the Macedons (who had entered the war because, after Cannae, they had figured the Romans were too weak to defend their allies in Greece), and the survivors of Cannae destroying the Sicilian cities that had defected to Hannibal. His situation only grew worse from that: the Carthaginians managed to destroy the army deployed in Spain, but by that point Hannibal's allies in Sicily had been destroyed or cowed into defecting back to Rome, the Gauls were broken as an effective fighting force and the Macedons had realized what was happening and sued for peace, meaning the survivors of Cannae could go to Spain and finish the job, the army of Northern Italy could pick off the Carthaginian troops that had escaped Spain and were trying to join Hannibal, and the forces of the army of the Balkans had been divided between the Northern and the Southern Italy armies to allow them to finish their job faster. Then the survivors of Cannae raised reinforcements in Spain and Sicily and invaded Africa, where they successfully stole Carthage's main ally.
    • Even before Hannibal, the Romans were so well-versed in manouver they could pull this on armies that outnumbered them: their frontline and rear-guard troops would switch position mid-battle, allowing their soldiers to stay relatively fresh while the enemy grew tired and felt like the Romans were outnumbering them until they either broke and were massacred during the escape (because the Romans were still fresher and would catch up to them) or were all chopped down in battle.
      • During their civil wars, this bit them back in the ass: as both sides would pull this, unless one of the commanders was significantly better or got lucky the armies would suffer grevious losses, resulting in a greater weakening of the Roman military than it would be for other armies.
  • King Goujian of Yue, a pre-Imperial Chinese ruler, would terrorise his opponents by having his front line march out to the middle of the field and decapitate themselves (or, in some accounts, slit their own throats, which makes more sense).
  • Seriously averted by, of all people, Genghis Khan. When your forces are usually a fraction of what your opposition can muster in you need to preserve those forces. They never engaged in hand-to-hand when they didn't have to, and leaving wounded men on the field was grounds for a commander's execution. Overly aggressive types tended not to get promoted because of the casualties they would take. Also, Genghis was known for a Father to His Men approach—at least to his own people.
  • At the Battle of Crecy in 1346, the French king Philip VI opened the battle by deploying Genoese mercenary crossbowmen and ordered them to begin firing on the English encamped at the top of the hill. The Genoese commander informed Philip that his troops were very fatigued from marching through rain and mud, did not have their pavises (anti-arrow shields) and that their bowstrings were wet from rain, which reduced their range. Philip insisted that they attack anyway which predictably ended with a catastrophe against the fast-firing English archers. Annoyed that his mercenaries had the audacity to die because of his idiotic order, Philip compounded his stupidity and brutality by ordereding his cavalry to charge through them to get to the English. The French knights deliberately chopped their way through their own crossbowmen to try and attack the English.
  • During the battle of Guilford Courthouse during the American Revolution, Lord Cornwallis's forces were on the verge of a devastating defeat. Out of desperation, he ordered his remaining artillery to fire grapeshot into the mass of men on the plain, regular and rebel alike. The rebels were forced back, but at a staggering cost to Cornwallis's troops.
  • Revolutionary France, according to historian Eugen Weber, was the first Western power to recruit conscripts in large numbers. The traditional file of well-trained soldiers went out in favor of massive columns of ill-trained soldiers, and French generals did not hesitate to throw them at the enemy under heavy fire, beginning what Weber called "The Gun Fodder Era." When you have a whole country of potential conscripts as your reserves, you can afford to lose many more soldiers than those that have to pay a professional army.
    • From the same era, one way Napoleon Bonaparte earned the ire of his fellow commanders prior to his declaring himself Emperor was because he was known to brag about the number of men he could lose in a single battle and still win it.
  • In the US Civil War, Union General Grant was accused of this, being given the appellation "Butcher" Grant by some on the Union side after his high-casualty battles in Virginia. But he didn't spend his men needlessly (and deeply mourned the battle of Cold Harbor, the one high-casualty battle that was genuinely pointless), and was distinguished from previous Union generals by advancing after high-casualty battles rather than retreating, something which made the men happy because they could see they were actually making progress.
    • A lot of that was because he was lined up against Lee. In the West he could fairly often outmanoever his opponents, such his Siege of Vicksburg where he finessed a spectacular and relatively low-cost victory that happened at around the same time, and was arguably more important than, the battle of Gettysburg. In addition, he was fighting in the Eastern Theater, where there simply wasn't space to maneuver or to bring the Union's superior numbers to bear. In the West, there was such space.

Military — World War I

  • The point of the WWI strategy of attrition warfare was "we have more reserves than them!"
  • Some WWI commanders would shoot those attempting to retreat without orders, or who refused to go over the trenches. It was a sort of preemptive punishment for treason. Although the number of men so shot is grossly over-exaggerated, there were men who were under two suspended sentences of death for desertion or sleeping at their posts.
  • Luigi Cadorna's strategy for the Italian army was based on this: knowing that his army was underequipped but most of the Austro-Hungarian forces were tied up fighting the Russians, he launched assault after pointless assault on the Isonzo (There were twelve Battles of the Isonzo River ) to drain the enemy reserves while Italy's industry produced enough guns to properly equip his troops. Eventually he succeeded in draining the Austro-Hungarian reserves, but before he could break through the Russians collapsed and the newly freed enemy forces were redeployed to Italy with some German reinforcements, resulting in the catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Caporetto. In the end he was sacked but still somewhat succeeded, as the Austro-Hungarians still had no reserves left while Italy could use their last reserves to fill the losses of the battle and then some, now led well by Cadorna's replacement Armando Diaz properly equipped, with Italy's shortage of machine guns filled in large part by American and French supplies.
  • Then there's Aylmer Hunter-Weston, a British divisional commander during the Gallipoli Campaign. When a staff officer remarked on the heavy casualties his men incurred at the Battle of Krithia, Hunter-Weston asked "Casualties? What do I care for casualties?"

Military — World War II

Used by both sides in World War 2.

The USSR and the Allies

  • The US did a kind of this in WWII where they sent out stupid amounts of ships, as quoted "the US built more ships than Japan could sink" which was meant literally. The sailors would be pulled out of the water and sent to crew new ships. This variant of the trope was less reprehensible than others, though many sailors of course did die. Of course, the US and its allies certainly did not neglect defending those ships as best as they could from enemy attack while they were at this, which included also building fighting ships as fast as they could to do so.
    • Interestingly enough, the threat of endless American reserves in WW1 contributed to Germany's surrender.
  • There was a similar example with the M4 Sherman. While by 1944 it was destroyed relatively easy by German anti-tank guns, it was more mechanically reliable and produced in far greater numbers than German tanks: knocked-out Shermans would be either repaired or replaced almost instantly. Things got even better once the more durable Easy Eight and Jumbo variants were deployed, as well as the British Firefly variantnote .
  • The cargo carrying Liberty ships were the best example of this. Designed to be built fast and in huge numbers, it was said if one carried a single load of war material across the Atlantic it had paid for itself. So much emphasis was put on building them quickly, that it wasn't unheard of for welds in the hulls (welding was used in place of riveting because it was faster) to split open in bad weather even without the aid of the enemy. It was calculated the lifespan of a Liberty ship would be 20 Atlantic crossings, so once having made one she had paid herself and the rest 19 would be net profits. Amazingly, many Liberty ships still served in revenue transportation in the 1970's. Two of them are still functional as museum/training ships.
  • Similarly to the Liberty Ships were the Escort Carriers, small, cheap aircraft carriers that could be built in mass quantities. The US built over 120 of these ships, which were used for various duties (anti-sub patrol, convoy escort, air support for amphibious forces, etc.) to free up the less numerous and far more capable Fleet carriers such as the Essex class (of which the US fielded "only" 24) to focus on other things (such as hunting down the dwindling numbers of Japanese carriers). For the Escort Carriers, ruggedness was not a high priority, earning them the nickname "Combustible, Vulnerable, Expendable" in reference to their "CVE" hull classification.
    • There were also the surviving American battleships. The USS Texas was built before WWI and quite slow when compared to the newer fast battleships. She did quite well and is now a museum ship and the only pre-WWI dreadnaught still afloat.
  • When the bombings of Berlin escalated, the allied forces did all they could to provoke the Luftwaffe into attacking them. This caused large losses for both sides, but while the allies could replace the lost planes and crews fairly easily the Germans could not. It was one of the factors that eventually allowed the allies to gain air superiority first and air supremacy later.
  • The American daylight bombing campaign proved to be staggeringly expensive in terms of human life lost. The Eighth Air Force, which gets most of the spotlight for the air war over Europe, suffered 46,000 casualties, including more than 26,000 airmen killed in action (more lives lost than the entire US Marine Corps in that war, although in contrast to the Airmen, the Marines didn't charge en mass into enemy artillery fire as a matter of course). In addition to the 8th AF, the less-famous Fifteenth Air Force, operating out of Italy, also suffered severe casualties pressing their daylight bombing campaign in Southern and Eastern Europe throughout the war.
  • Royal Air Force Bomber Command in WWII. Air Marshall Arthur Harris had nickname "Butcher" amongst the RAF bomber crews.
  • The T-34 was also used in this fashion, and the USSR was very liberal in sending them in swarms. The difference is that the T-34 was incredibly blind-sighted and could rarely even see far enough to fightnote , beat it's own crew half to death, not to mention crippling communications problems (Read: A complete lack of any radio whatsoever). This was rectified in the later models, though, and later T-34-85s incorporated "Common sense" adaptations as other tanks of the time, such as a full 360 cupola for the commander, a turret basket, and an expanded turret so that the Commander didn't also have to pull double duty as the loader.
  • Soviet penal battalions "Shtrafbats", were former Gulag prisoners or transferred Red Army troops for being suspected of having a reluctance to fight for whatever reason. Though told their crimes could be redeemed by receiving a combat injury or performing especially heroically in battle, in reality shtrafbats were largely just treated as existing for this trope's purposes - such as, attempting to break especially stubborn defenses, being dressed blatantly to be decoys for regular units, suicidal rearguard actions to cover retreats, or worst of all, "trampler" duty where in they cleared running through them prior to regular troops' advances.
  • In general during this period, while the notion of mass producing tanks and planes of inferior quality was an effective strategy for a few years, it simply could not be sustained with manpower losses, because while producing hardware like tanks and planes is simple and quick, recruiting and training men with the sort of skill required to handle even simple equipment was a significantly more lengthy process. As was shown in the case of Germany and Japan, while they were in fact capable of continuing to put out more then enough military hardware to meet their needs, they were chronically short of the experienced crews required to man them. Germany had lost many of its best pilots trying to defend its skies, while Japan lost all of its finest Carrier aircraft pilots either at Midway or during the Solomon Islands campaign; while both nations were able to make good their losses of aircraft, they simply could never train pilots with the sort of skill to match their predecessors in a short time. So the lesson that could be learned from this is that while machines are expendable, the men who know how to use those machines are not. America, Russia, and Britain were quick to learn this lesson upon taking stock of their losses after WWII and realized that while quantity over quality had managed to win them the war, it had left them severely weakened with significantly lowered reserves of trained crews at the end of WWII. This may have been a key contributing factor in why the Cold War didn't kick off into full blown war after WWII, as both sides had to train an entire new generation of crews to replace those lost in the war, which took time. Then just a few years after the war ended Russia successfully developed nuclear weapons and suddenly there were very good reasons why neither the US or USSR wanted to directly fight each other.
    • Well, that, and even the Allies had run out of even low-skill reserves by that point. The British were disbanding entire ground units to keep other units at full strength, the US had maxed out its manpower without dipping into reserves needed to run industry, and the Soviets not only only had enough men coming online to keep up their strength rather than replace losses, American Lend-Lease constituted enough of their logistical base that its loss would mean the immediate disbanding of formations to get them back on the farms and factories.
  • One German general actually stated that Allies would have never gained air superiority had Germany not spent too much resources on strategic bombers. But Allies also spent large amount of resources on strategic bombers, which means that both sides basically sent crews of strategic bombers to die for little military value, while actually harming their own ability to fight the war. In fact, USSBS has shown that German military production reached its peak at actual peak of US strategic bombardment campaign, and only started to slow down after the US re-focused on destroying Oil production and storage facilities over industrial production. It didn't help that the British Night Bombing campaign was instead focused on using the cover of night for petty terror bombing in retaliation for earlier luftwaffe bombing of Britain.
    • This gave rise to the abandonment of Going Down with the Ship for officers that lose a battle. We Have Reserves of equipment, but a trained officer can't be replaced so easily. The Death Before Dishonor mentality instilled by Japanese officer training meant the Japanese officer corps kept getting worse, while the American and British officer corps kept getting better.
  • To put it bluntly, you can't lose 30 million people and then still win the war via a completely overwhelming warpath to Berlin like the USSR did unless you have an insane number of reserves at your command.

The Axis

  • By the end of the war, Germany itself would resort to similar tactics. Because spare parts were in such short supply, it wasn't uncommon for entire tanks to be shipped to units for cannibalizing into parts. Panzer Brigades were organized with large numbers of the newly-produced tanks and Panzergrenadiers, but severely lacking in anti-aircraft guns, armored recovery vehicles and the general logistics that made German armor effective. Poorly-trained crews were often lost to seasoned American tank veterans. Sabotage from slave labor, less available resources and the constant bombing sharply drove down quality - post-war tests conducted by the Soviets determined armor plate on Panthers would frequently fall apart when struck with rounds theoretically rated to protect against. Ball-bearings for turret traverse mechanisms and hard, durable metals needed for transmissions were in extremely short supply.
  • Hitler gave orders amounting to no retreat and no surrender to Army Group North, Center, A, B, and North Africa - ordering them all to fight to the last man. A common interpretation is that the apparent success of 'no retreat' in the winter of '41-42 - in the face of an over-ambitious Soviet counter-offensive that failed to encircle and annihilate Army Group Center due to command-inexperience and weak logistics - convinced him that German troops were superior (man-for-man) to their Soviet counterparts and needed only the moral courage to keep fighting for them to prevail. At no point did he ever seem to appreciate the importance of mobile reserves and operational/campaign-level withdrawals to a successful strategic defense-in-depth - the Wehrmacht basically had nothing of the former left after the Ukrainian autumn-winter campaigns of '43-44, which annihilated the country's stock of experienced Panzer-crews, and he increasingly forbade the latter and began routinely firing Generals who refused to follow those orders - even the most talented and indispensable of them, such as Manstein and Runstedt.
    • In fact, this mentality was one of many reasons why the Germans lost the Battle of Stalingrad and, later, the entire Eastern Front of the European Theater.
  • Also applies to the German U-boat service. By the end of the war, they had suffered a permanent casualty rate of over 70%. Yet, they kept being sent out on what were effectively suicide missions.
  • The entire concept of Kamikaze attacks were based on these, where Japan hoped that it would have more pilots and hardware to outlast their opponents. One Japanese General noted that they were "like bees" in that they swarm to sting the opponent, but died as they done so. Japan would seriously underestimate their reserves, however, and with adapted tactics by the Allies, Kamikazes became less and less effectivenote .

Military — Cold War to present day

  • The official policy of Egypt in the War of Attrition 1967-1970, after they lost the Six Day War. As said by President Gamal Abdel Nasser:
    "If the enemy succeeds in inflicting fifty-thousand casualties in this campaign, we can go on fighting nevertheless, because we have manpower reserves. If we succeed in inflicting ten-thousand casualties, he will unavoidably find himself compelled to stop fighting, because he has no manpower reserves."
    • The Israelis tried to counter since they could do the math just as well and decided to bomb Cairo from the air, directly and indirectly threatening the Nasser regime itself. However, it turned out, they could not sustain a deep penetration bombing campaign either.note 
  • During the First Gulf War, the United States one-time (Cold-War) Ally Generalissimo Saddam Hussein believed that a lesson from the Vietnam War was that the US (who formed the backbone of the U.N. taskforce to force him back from The Kingdom Of Kuwait) wouldn't support a war that would cost them 10,000 casualties. He, meanwhile had hundreds of thousands to spare and none of his subjects could protest the attrition. For one thing he thought that the U.N. would obey the letter of international law and seek to only engage him in Kuwait (they attacked Iraq itself, outflanking his forces and trapping them in Kuwait). For another, he seems to have forgotten the basics of force multipliers - i.e. his troops were catastrophically outmatched, so the enemy could be expected to take minimal losses (the greater the enemy's advantage, the fewer their losses). Thus, while the U.N. killed some 30k Iraqi troops they only lost 392 people.
  • About the Vietnam War Ho Chi Minh is reported to have said: "We may lose fifteen men for every one of yours, but even at those odds we will win and you will lose."
  • A rather cold-hearted take on this is sometimes cited by more bellicose Indian generals in response to the logic of Mutually Assured Destruction in the event of a nuclear war with Pakistan, arguing that it doesn't apply, since if an Indian strike takes out 200 million Pakistanis, it has exterminated the country, whereas if a Pakistani strike takes out 200 million Indians, they still have over a billion left.


  • In nature, reproductive strategies are split between animals that have a small number of young and raise them carefully, and ones that have lots of young (or, typically, lay lots of eggs) and don't care for them at all, trusting that there are enough that some will survive. The latter strategy is a lot less energy-intensive and is generally used by more basic and short-lived species, while the former is particularly common among some birds and nearly all the larger mammals. Some kinds of rodents have and raise frequent large litters, leading to exponential population growth over a very short time if conditions are favorable.
  • Eusocial insects like ants, termites, and bees use this strategy to defend their nests. Dozens or even hundreds of non-breeding workers and soldiers can be sacrificed when a predator attacks. So long as the queen is protected, she can replace them with her prodigious egg-laying.
  • The human body is like this. It creates millions of white blood cells to fight infections and continues to create them until the infection is defeated. It works most of the time, except against diseases that attack the immune system itself or autoimmune disorders (when they go nuts and attack the tissues they're supposed to defend).
  • In a non human killing way, situations or countries that have (more than) enough of a certain resource can act like that. Iceland for example has a lot of geothermal and hydropower resources; much more than a country of a bit over 300 000 people could ever use for domestic consumption and there is no way to export any sizable quantity of it directly, so while electricity is not quite "too cheap to meter", some of the energy uses tend to be rather wasteful. The famous "Blue Lagoon" for instance is basically wastewater of a geothermal power plant that is still warm enough to swim in in the Icelandic winter. Most other countries would probably use it to heat homes, but there is just so much of it that this is what is left over even after all needs are met. Iceland has started quite a big aluminum industry, because converting bauxite into aluminum requires a huge amount of electric energy and Iceland has a lot of it.
  • Similarly the GDR had a When All You Have Is a Hammer... approach to Lignite. It was (and still is) the only natural resource found in any appreciable quantities in the area and while most of its uses are horribly inefficient and/or polluting,note  it was still cheaper than buying other resources or technology to increase efficiency. In subsidized housing in the GDR people would regulate the temperature by opening the window as the heating could not be shut off and was paid for anyway. It's almost hard to believe the GDR eventually ran out of money.
  • The US Federal Government and the Constitution have this in regards to the Presidency. If the President dies or is incapable of fulfilling the duties of the position of President, then the Vice-President takes power. This is one reason they don't typically travel together. If both President and Vice-President are no longer capable, then the duty and position falls to the Speaker of the House, thanks to the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution. The line of Presidential succession in case of emergencies is such that during any major get together of the President, Vice-President, and Congress, there might be one member of the President's Cabinet, and one member of each part of Congress secluded away in different locations, just in the event something incapacitates or kills the current body of the US Government, there will be people to immediately step into the positions of President, Speaker of the House, and Senate Pro Temp.

Alternative Title(s): We Have Reinforcements