Proxima Midnight: We have blood to spare.
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 their casual—if not complete—disregard for the lives of their 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; they expect Attack! Attack! Attack! without a second thought, and a Last Stand before retreat. (And they usually do it from perfect safety.) General Failure will often upgrade this from a last resort to their preferred tactic.
After a moment like this, the character might as well have asshole printed on their forehead. Bonus points if they refer to his troops as being trash or somehow subhuman, or if they do it not because they sincerely believe that doing this is necessary to win, but in pursuit of their own glory/making a name for themself. 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 they probably do 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 also knowing a victory here will save more lives can be pardoned for it if they show that they are aware of the cost (Drowning My Sorrows and Past Experience Nightmare 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 they show Character Development because of it or improves their tactics.
The likelihood that the troops of a commander who does this trope regularly would probably fold like wet paper on the battlefield (few are willing to get themselves almost certainly killed just because someone said so) should logically be an issue, though the likes of fighters being organisms led by a Hive Mind, cultures relying on sheer zealotry, or other rationales may address this. Robotic warriors likewise will often be depicted with little to no intelligence or sapience to prevent them from mindlessly marching forward into battle.
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 (where the opponent throws everything at you, disregarding any other battle plan), Cannon Fodder (a low-skill enemy with little planning that dies easily), Redshirt Army (when the good side employs this), Expendable Clone (where a character is their own reserves), and both Hammerspace Police Force and I Fought the Law and the Law Won (where law enforcement is the "reserves" in question). Also compare The Pawns Go First (when the formidable Big Bad sends out Mooks rather than engage in the fight himself). See also You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and You Have Failed Me for similar moments from a Bad Boss, and Gideon Ploy. Shoot the Messenger also relies on the Big Bad feeling that their 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.
- 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.
- This is present in the early chapters of the Barefoot Gen manga, which takes place shortly before the end of World War II and features scathing criticisms of the Japanese military, the endemic brutality and abuse within it, and their use of this trope. This is particularly true of the Navy's kamikaze pilot program, as illustrated when a young pilot overhears a high ranking officer ranting about the lack of success in the kamikaze attacks.
Officer: Hmph. Thirty planes of the Kamihana and Kenpu Squadrons lost, and not even one enemy ship sunk! A zero percent success rate! They're not even trying! I'll be happy if the next squadron we send out boosts our average even a little. Heh heh!
- 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.
- Mad Scientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi of 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".
- Szayelaporro Granz, as Espada's take on the Mad Scientist, is just as bad. The only difference is that instead of turning his subordinates into bombs, he turns them into mobile health kits, which he uses by eating them.
- Aizen takes over Hueco Mundo primarily to have targets to test Hougyoku's power of bridging the gap between Shinigami and Hollows, using the resulting Arrancar as cannon fodder just to clear the path for his ascension, caring not a whit about their lives or deaths.
- The Vandenreich Emperor takes over Hueco Mundo after Aizen is out and treats them even worse. Aizen at least wasn't killing them himself, but Yhwach actively does. His Quincy fare only marginally better - he bestows power onto them, but also takes it back whenever he needs to power up himself or some of his personal guards.
- 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 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 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.
- 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.
- Dragon Ball:
- 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. When he returns in the prelude to the Android saga and faces Trunks, he does the same again, even taking the moment to kill off the one mook that Trunks has spared.
- Babidi considers all of his minions expendable as long as he gets to Majin Buu. His first scene has him have Spopovich and Yamu killed on the spot after they give him Gohan's stolen Ki, with the Supreme Kai stating outright that Babidi always kills any minions he thinks he doesn't need anymore, and the very second Buu is revived, Babidi immediately casts off Dabura, his loyal right-hand man, and allows Buu to kill and eat him, spelling it out to him that he doesn't need anyone to serve him but Majin Buu. This ends up biting him in the ass once Buu realizes, with a little prodding from Goku, that he doesn't have to take Babidi's shit.
- Dragon Ball Super: Moro's general attitude towards his men. Among other things, he pumps Saganbo full of energy and forces him to fight Goku until he undergoes a Super-Power Meltdown and drops dead and eats Seven-Three alive for a power boost. He even flat-out tells Goku as such after Saganbo's death, much to the latter's outrage.
Goku: Wasn't he your friend...?
Moro: My friend? I have no friends— those were my soldiers. They may be gone, but I can always collect more.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- In the English dub of Hetalia: Axis Powers, America has a "great" plan to defeat the titular Axis Powers. Russia's role? Keep sending in cannon fodder!
- 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 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 6.25 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Played straight with other pilots. In the Unit 03 incident where he casually orders it destroyed with the pilot (Touji in the 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.
- 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.
- 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. In 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 Blackbeard, 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.
- During the Wano Arc, one of Kaido's top lieutenants, Queen, outright tells their non-ability user troops that they're absolutely worthless and that he doesn't give the tiniest crap if he accidentally kills them with his manufactured plagues because they're easily replaceable. They quickly turn against him once Chopper manufactures an antidote and cures them, realizing their enemies cared more for their lives than their own boss did. Queen still has the audacity to call them ungrateful when they switch sides!
- Xanxus from Reborn! (2004) 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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 the manga of So I'm a Spider, So What?, the Anograchs (monkey-like monsters) and especially their higher-tier leaders the Bugragtachs follow this mentality; in their mad urge to kill Kumoko, they storm her web by the hundreds, and just use the ones who get caught as stepping stones. Triple-digit deaths matters little as long as they get to kill one little spider who didn't even provoke them in the first place.
- 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.
- SSSS.GRIDMAN: Alexis Kerib shows no concern over the destruction of any of his kaiju, since they're simple clay statues made by his partner Akane. He can make an infinite number of kaiju whenever he wants, in fact; the only reason he even needs the clay statues in the first place is because he's not very creative and needs someone else to design them for him.
- SSSS.DYNɅZENON: Unlike in the previous show, kaiju in this show come from a limited supply of seeds that gradually grow into monsters in the presence of human emotion. The villains don't know how many seeds there are or when they'll sprout, and later in the show one of them responds to the idea of this trope by pointing out that they might not have reserves. The penultimate episode centers around the supply of kaiju finally running out, and how the characters on all sides deal with the idea that there are no more reserves to be had.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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...)
- 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.
- Blake and Mortimer: Olrik's forces take heavy losses when they attack the British's secret base, much to the protest of one of his officer. Olrik brush it off was they have plenty of reserves.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Immortal Iron Fist, this is how Xao treats his Hydra underlings who also consider themselves expendable, calling themselves a Legion.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Following the Genesis Wave arc botching his plans in Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), Eggman resorts to his plan B of robotising the whole planet. The clincher in this however is that he knows that any machinery that cannot be robotised will explode on exposure, meaning almost certain destruction for all his enemies either way. Sally points out it's suicide as that would detonate all his own troops in the process, which Eggman shrugs off, noting with a Slasher Smile, there's no making an omelette "without cracking a few eggs". Even Sonic and Sally, who trash Eggman's goons in droves, are utterly repulsed by this.
- 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.
- Inverted in Last Daughter of Krypton: Reign is a blood-thirsty Super Supremacist, but she cannot afford any of her three henchmen, which is because she reluctantly forfeits a battle when one of them gets poisoned.
- A Mind-Switch in Time: Euphor's reaction to his minions getting killed by their own powers is uttering "How tragic! Oh, well— There's more where they came from!" and transforming another person.
- 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.
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron: In the 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 X-Men story "Days of Future Past", Sentinels don't care how much you kill. Destroy one Sentinel, destroy a hundred, a thousand, it does not matter. Their number is overwhelming.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami has most Keepers using this strategy. Their minions know it, but they go along with it anyway. Subverted for Keeper Mercury, who cares about the wellbeing of her employees. Double Subverted with Mercury's ice golems, since she can just make new ones whenever she runs out of them.
- 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 after twenty-four hours, 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.
- Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K:
- The Separatists created an army of Robot Soldiers and Mecha-Mooks specifically so they could be replaced quickly and cheaply, allowing them to drown the enemy in a tide of bodies.
- The Republic struggles to keep itself from viewing its Clone Troopers in the same light, largely because, while they can be manufactured in short periods and large quantities, they're both more expensive than droids and they take much longer to produce.
- The Invading Refugees from the Imperium are struggling to get out of this mindset, as they no longer have the trillions upon trillions of Imperial Guard reserves to draw replacements from.
- White Sheep (RWBY): Young Grimm (especially those spawned from the Fertile Blood of Jaune and his sisters) are basically mindless, barely even animals. Therefore, while Jaune and the others don't like doing so, they don't lose much sleep over sacrificing young Grimm in droves. When Jaune threatens to destroy Atlas in order to get Yang back, Ironwood immediately realizes that all their incredible military technology will count for little but delaying the inevitable—Jaune has more Grimm than Atlas has bullets.
- 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.
- 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. It is best to avoid making comparisons between this fictional portrayal and the real life Haig.
- In the very first episode of the first series which also criticized 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 casual 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.
- 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.
- In "Hero", Doyle describes the Scourge as such. People fight back against them all the time, but their members fully believe in their cause and are willing to die for it.
Angel: Hard to fight fanatics.
Doyle: More like impossible.
- 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.
- In "Selfess", 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.
- In "Chosen", the First Evil isn't too concerned when Buffy kills Caleb, its Dragon, for this reason.
The First: You killed him right and proper. Terrible loss. This man was my good right arm. 'Course, it don't pain me too much; don't need an arm. Got an army.
- Doctor Who:
- Like most tropes, this shows up, sometimes on the Planet of Hats. "Dalek" has 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.
- Chillingly invoked in the Fourth Doctor story "State of Decay", when the guard commander asks his vampire lord to send his bat familiars to help stave off the mounting rebellion.
Aukon: I have need of them. The guards must hold the Tower to the last man.
Habris: We are outnumbered. Unless you aid us, we shall all be killed.
Aukon: (Aukon looks straight into Habris's eyes) Then die. That is the purpose of guards. Go!
- Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: Implied with Lesley, the woman in the attic. When Yellow Guy accidentally destroys their figurine of Duck, they open up a cabinet containing a bunch of copy figurines of the characters and quickly switch him out. Considering that they can seemingly control where the characters go through the figurines, and one version of Duck had been killed in Episode 2, this seems to indicate that she can easily switch the characters out for duplicates when the situation calls for it.
- 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 Expanse:
- The series takes place in the future, and humanity has colonized Mars, which has since broken away from Earth and become a military rival. There’s a cold war between the two planets and a delicate balance of power; everyone knows that the Martian navy has the technological advantage over Earth’s fleet, but Earth has so many more ships and soldiers that in an all out war it’s still likely that Earth would prevail. However both sides are also aware of the limitations of this trope; as of the start of the series it’s estimated that in another 5-10 years Mars will have expanded its navy enough that it will negate Earth’s numerical advantage. For that reason Warhawks on Earth want a chance to go to war and subjugate Mars before that day can come... sure enough when open war breaks out between the two planets Earth relies on this strategy. The cost to both sides is devastating and the conflict is still hanging in the balance when the various protagonists manage to bring the fighting to a stop.
- This is also in effect in the very first battle of the series. Captain Yao, commander of the Donnager, (one of the most advanced and powerful Martian warships) confidently predicts that the fleet of mystery stealth ships that seem bent on attacking the Donnager are engaging in a Suicide Mission by even trying to take them on. One on one she'd be right; as advanced as the stealth ships are, they are absolutely no match for the Donnager without a major numerical advantage. However, there are at least six of the stealth ships and they just keep coming and coming despite their losses, and bit by bit they beat down the Donnager until the Martian ship can no longer effectively fight back.
- 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.
- In a possible Shout-Out to the Trope Namer, 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 when Ramsay sends in a second wave, this time made up of heavy infantry, which comes 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 arrive 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 musters 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.
- Stannis gives a rare heroic version of this in Blackwater, emphasizing not his callousness but the need to take King's Landing to depose Joffrey and install Stannis, the rightful king, despite the cost. Also subverted, in that Stannis truly does not have reserves. He's all-in at Blackwater and struggles to raise a new host after his defeat.
Imry Florent: We're too far from the gates... the fire... their archers. Hundreds will die.
- The Great: An angry Peter tells the Swedish King that there's 12 million Russians, and he'd gladly lose 4 million of them to kill 2 million Swedes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- On Nikita, Ryan is in the command center when word comes of a Division agent being captured. Ryan immediately orders a team to start putting together a rescue plan only to find them staring at him as if he's speaking Martian. Amanda coldly tells Ryan "Division doesn't do rescues" as he realizes that Division always sees their agents as totally expendable (the first realization to him of how rogue the agency has become).
- 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."
- 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."
- The Grand Finale of Spartacus: War of the Damned pays homage to Braveheart. Marcus Crassus orders catapults and ballista to be fired into the melee, and when Julis Ceasar protests that they'll hit their own men, Crassus counters that they have reserves and he is tired of this war. Spartacus actually anticipated this, and has Gannicus and Saxa lead a cavalry charge to take the artillery and turn it against the Romans.
- Star Trek:
- In Star Trek: The Original Series, the original series, Kirk and Spock subtly accuse Lokai of having slipped into this mentality in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" — Lokai saying they won't put where their money where their mouth is — how they won't "fight or die" for the justice he asks.
Captain Kirk: After so many years of leading the fight, you seem very much alive.
Spock: I doubt that the same can be said for many of his followers.
- 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.
- In Star Trek: The Original Series, the original series, Kirk and Spock subtly accuse Lokai of having slipped into this mentality in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" — Lokai saying they won't put where their money where their mouth is — how they won't "fight or die" for the justice he asks.
- 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!
- Metallica's "Disposable Heroes":
Back to the front / You will do what I say, when I say "Back to the front." You will die when I say, when I say "Back to the front." / You coward, you servant, you blind man, back to the front.
- The Draconis Combine and the Lyran Commonwealth suffer from this trope in the classic timeline. The Combine combines a strong Honor Before Reason warrior culture with favouring quick, aggressive assaults with fast and light 'mechs. As such, they tend to throw away men and resources on undergunned attacks without sufficient support, which fail to obtain their objective and then are too proud to retreat in time when things go south. The Lyrans, by contrast, are a strategic Mighty Glacier: Extremely wealthy, populous and led by Social Generals, they always have enough men and materiel to throw away on massive offensives and have a tolerance for losses that gives even the Combine pause. The two factions are also neighbours and major rivals; Combine/Lyran wars tend to be bloody affairs.
- The Clans have an... interesting relation to this trope. Clan society abhors waste, but it also has an even more hidebound honour system than the Combine and puts no value whatsoever on individual Clan lives. As such, any formal battle between Clans tend to be solved extremely quickly and with very little blood spilled before the losing side accepts hegira (an honourable withdrawal offered to a defeated enemy), but on the other hand when the Clans do go all-out they are expected to fight to the death and bring as many enemies down with them as possible. This includes any time solahma units gets involved, which are Clan Cannon Fodder made up of washed-out warriors who couldn't make the cut in their Asskicking Leads to Leadership ranking system. To Clans, solahma units cannot, by definition, be 'wasted' because they already are by dint of existing.
- In chess, only the king matters. Players quite often sacrifice multiple pieces on their own side to ensure a checkmate. On the other hand, any half-decent player will only sacrifice pieces willy-nilly when they're damn sure it will result in a checkmate or as part of a gambit (which, in chess, refers to a calculated sacrifice to achieve a more favorable position, not what it means in other contexts). After all, in a game where you only have 16 pieces to work with and no way of getting more, you don't want to throw pieces away unless you get something out of it. Even the pawns. Especially the pawns, at high-level play.
- The Dark Eye: An Admiral Vikos victory is one where you suffer higher losses than the enemy but, unlike them, can afford to do so.
- 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 Controllers, specialize in these sort of 'party safe' spells and can benefit greatly from Coordinated Fire without invoking this trope.
- 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.
- Exalted: Surprisingly averted in a bit of flavor text. Some Dragon-Blooded officers care about the lives of their mortal subordinates and some don't, but regardless of that throwing mortals at Celestial Exalted is just wasting them to no purpose. When the Anathema show up, it's time for the officers to order the mortals to stand aside and enter the battle themselves.
- 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.
- 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.
- The minion-heavy decks in Sentinels of the Multiverse, such as Voss, The Chairman or the Matriarchs, use this as a strategy, with numerous ways to bring mooks to the forefront, and even revive them from the trash. Outright stated in the flavor text of one of Expatriette's cards, which allows her to automatically damage any villain target the moment it enters play: A Blade Battalion Commander, apparently admonishing his troops with, "Get out there! She can't shoot all of you!"
- Strike Legion: How the Imperium. 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.
- Victory in the Pacific: Averted 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 reform with new equipment before it is combat-worthy again.
- 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 flamethrowers 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 — indeed, a key reason why such tactics are tolerated is because every Skaven is so self-absorbed that even the ones sent in as blatant Cannon Fodder are willing to take their chances for some time due to all the other Skaven with them that they don't really care are also around to die in their stead (not to mention the higher-ups just directly threatening their lives)...and Skaven morale in battle is still pretty poor anyway.
- 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 demoralize 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 indiscriminate, also in past iterations 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.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- From a gameplay perspective, this is kind of the reasoning behind what the community calls "tarpitting". One solution to dealing with otherwise-daunting hyper-elite infantry, monstrous creatures and special characters that you don't have the spare firepower to deal with is to instead swamp them with some kind of cheap and disposable infantry choice - Conscripts, Ork Boyz, Tyranid Hormagaunts, Nurgle Zombies, Eldar Storm Guardians, etc. The point isn't to slowly grind down the powerful unit as they probably are going to win given enough time, but they cannot target worthier opponents or capture objectives in the meantime they are stuck chopping up fodder worth only a fraction of their exorbitant price cost. The rest of your army will probably have already decided the overall outcome of the battle by the time they have won and become free to engage other units.
- This is basically the default for many factions in the setting, the total military might of the larger powers is staggering. The Imperium of Man is specifically said to have so many members spread across so many planets that effectively counting them all is functionally impossible. It is commonly said about the Imperium that bodies are the only resource they have in abundance.
- 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."
- It's often played with in that while they have effectively endless manpower reserves, a lot of their equipment is Lost Technology and irreplaceable. So while a commander would sacrifice a plasma gunner without a second thought (and his weapon actually has a good chance of killing him during normal operation), he'd be nervous about risking the gun itself. Standing Guard orders are that if you can either save a soldier or his gear, always take the gear.
- 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. Of course Orks consider an exciting battle against a worthy opponent to be jolly good fun, and it's basically their sole reason for existing in the first place. 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're never going to survive past the battle they're built for. Regardless of if they do or not, they'll just be eaten back up and their biomass reused. Of course you can argue that there isn't really such a thing as "one Tyranid" in the first place.
- 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 'nids 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 T'au, Space Marines, and the Eldar are remarkable for the fact that they don't have reserves. The T'au are rare in that they always calculate if the fight is worth it and happily pull out of bad situations to come back when it counts. This behavior is contrasted with the Imperium, which will funnel millions of lives into a deathtrap or fruitless last stand as a point of honor. The Space Marines are essentially a special operations force with the Imperial Guard acting as the reserves. 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, but there are a whole lot of them to begin with, and thanks to teleportation and auto-repair technology, Necrons are basically impossible to permanently destroy.
- 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". Their 9th edition strategems include "Cannon Fodder", allowing them to use cultists as bullet shields, and "Contempt Over Caution", allowing them to fire into melee, a thing almost nobody else is willing to do (and which is, naturally, cheaper to use if the only allies in that combat are cultists).
- 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, especially 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, Chaos' Only Sane Man. Oddly enough they're seemingly the only Legion that actually does have reserves; during the Heresy they suffered devastating defeats that seem like they have taken them out of the war on three separate occasions, only to pop up at full strength later. Nobody has any real idea of their true numbers, where their recruiting bases are, or how they train and equip new Marines so quickly.
- The spinoff Gorkamorka has the very weedy Rebel Grots, whose big tactical advantage is coming in much larger groups than others can.
- Beast Wars: Uprising: The Builder Assembly, even facing very imminent death, are unable and unwilling to let go of this mentality, sending their last few troops still able to move to fight and die to hold the Resistance off just a little longer. When Ratbat tells Rodimus to have his troops pointlessly hold the line, Rodimus finally decides "screw you" and quits, taking his soldiers with him. This proves to be the smart idea, both for Rodimus, his troops, and the Resistance.
- Brawl in the Family has 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.
- 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.
- Erfworld: Prince Ansom uses this against Parson in the first book and nearly succeeds, although Parson is very good at exploiting the weaknesses of this strategy. In the end, however, Parson can 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.
- The Order of the Stick: As the Evil Overlord Card-Carrying Villain Xykon is a very Bad Boss, he and his Dragons and allies do it repeatedly. A few examples:
- Xykon responds to a group of his ogres demanding to be paid by killing them and turning them into zombies.
- Xykon's Dragon Redcloak, who is a goblin, takes over a very large group of hobgoblins after he succeeds in Challenging the Chief. (Well, sorta). Since goblins have a long running feud with hobgoblins, Redcloak feels little hesitation about giving the hobgoblins dangerous orders likely to result in many of them dying. First he orders a group of hobgoblin mooks up a dangerous trail so they would cause an avalanche that would kill them and ensure the safety of the others following after them. Later rather than trying to kill a potentially dangerous guard monster, he sends in troops armed only with garnish clubs and cracker shields against it, so it will fall asleep after eating them. And during the Siege of Azure City, he orders a human-wave style attack against the fortified walls, obviously not caring about the fate of the hobgoblins at all... until one of them dies saving Redcloak's life, at which point he realizes what he's been doing, reacts with horror at what he is becoming and promptly stops the wasteful spending of lives.
- 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 the mook gained from this elevates him beyond a simple mook now—and also makes it possible for Xykon, as a high-level caster who rarely faces a threat that will still give him any XP, to get just a bit of XP that he wouldn't get for killing an unleveled mook.
- Outsider: The Umiak can replace their losses, both of ships and of troops, with extreme ease. As such, their battle tactics tend to revolve heavily around mass sacrifice of expendable troops, either to tie up the powerful Loroi vessels while more valuable assets maneuver into place or to attempt to tear through Loroi lines with brute force, and never mind the cost. They also think nothing of extremely risky maneuvers such as attempting a "deep jump" into the Leido star system, which potentially cost them large numbers of ships by having them overshoot and land into the system's central star, if it lets them gain a tactical advantage over the Loroi.
- 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.
- Terra: The 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).
- Tower of God: In "Hell Train — Three Orders", Maschenny Jahad leads an attack against Ha Jinsung. While she herself could fight him on even terms, she brings a small army of flying ships with her and has them fire on him first — and then casually watches him obliterate half of them in one attack. Turns out she wants to talk to him under the cover of fighting.
- 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 Fire Never Dies: Averted by both sides of the Second American Revolution. The Reds have the numbers to get away with these tactics, but avoid such tactics when possible (largely out of concern for morale), preferring to spend ammunition instead of blood. The Whites, meanwhile, are quite aware of the fact that they do not have reserves.
- Hamster's Paradise: The harmsters reproduce in large numbers and mature quickly as a way of coping with a high mortality rate. It's the reason why they have such a severe Lack of Empathy towards their own kind as any of the sick or elderly can be easily replaced so they see no reason to care for them.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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. "Fewer people, 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. The idea that they're all killed at the end of the month has since fallen out of favor and the trope itself is listed as an SCP to justify the inconsistency.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mahu: The Biluan Mind uses this tactic quite often, both when it comes to its armies and its fleets. Driven by their need to consume, they care little about loses, to the point where worker and half-formed drones are used as cannon fodder.
- In Sword Art Online Abridged, a raid leader reads the beta tester's strategy guide for a floor boss out loud. Since the boss will throw wave after wave of monsters at them, the players are advised to... "respond in kind." (To be fair to the beta testers, Aincrad wasn't a Deadly Game when the guide was written, so murdering players was, at worst, a dick move)
- Vision of Escaflowne Abridged: Duke Freid when his men are outnumbered on the battlefield.
Duke Fried: Sergeant
Cannon FodderCanaan-Föder, how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
Canaan-Föder: I... I don't know, sir.
Duke Fried: That's easy, you don't! You just keep sending wave after wave of men to their deaths! Now, call in the reserves — we're having a good old-fashioned troop surge!
- Inverted in that as soon as he says it, his own men shoot him in the back with an arrow volley.
Canaan-Föder: How does it feel to be the last man to die for a mistake, asshole?
- Inverted in that as soon as he says it, his own men shoot him in the back with an arrow volley.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: After speaking out against a general's plan to callously sacrifice a unit of freshly-recruited troops, not only does Prince Zuko get half his face burned off, but he gets banished and sent on a Snipe Hunt, too.
- 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.
- 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 Beast Machines, 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.
- Birdman (1967) 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.
- 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: Whatever you mission is, I'm willing to put wave after wave of men at your disposal. Right, men?
(complete silence from the entire mess hall)
Voice in the back: You suck!
- It doesn't help that Brannigan is When All You Have Is a Hammer… for this.
Bender: Sir, I volunteer for a suicide mission! ...lousy patriotism circuit!
Brannigan: You're a brave robot, son, but when I'm in command, every mission is a suicide mission!
- And he's not above doing so with children:
Brannigan: Now, assuming the fifteenth pile of children buys us a few seconds...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reboot: The bigger Megabyte's army gets, the more okay he becomes with sacrificing them for "the cause", which gets demonstrated when he sends an entire fleet of soldiers to certain death in order to get at (or at least soften the defenses of) the Principal Office and barely reacts when they inadvertently fly into a killbox and are all slaughtered.
- At the start of the second season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Catra has settled into the strategy of using this trope with Entrapta's robot mooks as the reserves in question. Catra reasons that after having nearly conquered Bright Moon at the end of the first season, the waves of robots will keep the princesses busy and on the defensive, allowing the Horde to take or consolidate other territories. Although initially this is somewhat successful, the season shows the strategy is ultimately ineffective; Adora gradually starts mastering the powers of She-Ra, and as the princesses start working together it becomes easier for them to fight off the robots. Meanwhile, while Catra may not be losing actual soldiers, the show averts Easy Logistics by showing that it does take a lot of resources to make those robots in such large numbers, and the Fright Zone soon becomes dangerously low on those resources. Some units are so undersupplied as a result that they actually refuse to go into battle.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: This is the basis of General Krell's leadership method, due in part to his disdain toward clone troopers. While he does have a history of achieving victory, this comes at the cost of his casualty rates - as Fives notes, more clone troopers have died under Krell's command than from any other Jedi. He also attempts this with the 501st in Anakin's absence, although it's later discovered by the clones that Krell was a traitor all along, and was purposefully devising incompetent strategies designed to get as many clones killed as possible.
- Star Wars Rebels: Grand Admiral Thrawn has a reputation for being willing to sacrifice any number of troops to achieve his goals; in fact, the battle that got him promoted had more civilian deaths than rebels. However, while he is willing to spend lives, he hates wasting lives. He goes to some extremes to preserve not only as many of his allies as possible, but also his enemies. After all, captured enemies can be interrogated. Furthermore, the civilian deaths he is supposedly responsible for were actually the fault of an Imperial civilian who screwed up his plan. Thrawn was actually incensed about the whole thing.
- 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.