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Military - General

  • Another name for Zerg Rush is Human Wave Attack. It has historically been the traditional tactics of barbarian warbands and conscription armies who have masses of manpower but very little training or equipment.
    • Although with the advent of light machine guns, mines, and relatively accurate fire support the human wave attack became obsolete (against Warsaw Pact and NATO forces, anyhow) by c.1960. Before then, the state of night-vision equipment and the co-ordination of fire-support was such that night-time 'human wave' tactics were actually a pretty good idea if you had a numerical advantage and/or were lacking fire support. This was the key to the People's Liberation Army's surprising effectiveness against UN forces in the Korean War despite their huge armoured-vehicle, artillery, and air-support handicap.
      • Zig-zagged with the People's Volunteer Army during the Korean War, and indeed, with many armed forces supposedly using "human wave" tactics. They may be given to We Have Reserves mentality due to relative scarcity of high tech equipment and large numerical advantage, but trained manpower is not easily replaceable and even low-tech, high-manpower forces tend to rely on skills and tactics except under most dire conditions. A US marine during the Korean War supposedly quipped, "how many human waves in a Chinese platoon?".
  • Unsurprisingly, Lanchester's Square Law means that even marginally more numerous formations can have dramatically improved success and survival rates in combat - provided the co-ordination and/or combat-effectiveness of said more numerous formation(s) isn't so poor that their numbers can't make good on it. The larger group inflicts more casualties, which makes it even larger comparatively, which means it causes even more casualties compared to the enemy, and so on. Larger units can also back each other up with cover/suppression fire and assist in taking down targets faster, possibly even denying the enemy a chance to retaliate. Seriously, when you're already facing someone with a machine gun, chances are you're not gonna notice the second guy aiming for you, or the third or fourth. And if you do notice, you're probably going to panic and shoot badly - assuming the people already tracking you don't just blow your head off the second you pop out of cover. In use wherever possible by anyone who wants to win and/or take minimal casualties - i.e. everyone. The UK's armed forces, for instance, have a policy of never engaging their enemies in combat without at least 3:1 numerical superiority.
    • Although the Parachute Regiment fought a battle, uphill, in the dark, against enemies in fixed positions at 2:3 odds - and won - at Goose Green in the Falklands War, this was due to necessity and under-estimating Argentinian numbers. But if the Paras had known in advance, it probably wouldn't have fazed them anyway.
    • Lanchester's law apply only when ceteris paribus - when all things are equal and neither has any qualitative or technological advantage. A single machine gun can be a Game-Breaker as it can multiply the firepower of a numerically inferior opponent instantly and invalidate the Lanchester's law.
  • As a general rule the Zerg Rush does not work against a well-fortified position and concentrated fire. See Zulu Wars; Pickett's Charge; WW1...
    • Though in the case of the Zulu, the Rush (in a slightly more complex form) was in fact a fairly new and effective tactic by which the Zulu had come to dominate the region, the work of a military genius who was unfortunately dead by the time the Zulu met the British. Had someone like him been around at the time, the Zulu might've fared better, as shown on one occasion when they did manage to get hold of some artillery.
  • There was once a military manoeuvre/unit known as the Forlorn Hope. These were the first men into a breached wall in a siege situation, so called because of their chances of surviving (also possibly a corruption of the Dutch for "Lost Company", Verloren Hoop). Anyone who did survive was automatically made an officer.
    • Among the French. While a British officer who survived the Forlorn Hope was promoted, for the men it was just the glory of having taken part and making it through.
    • A lieutenant became a captain and sergeants were promoted to ensigns. If anyone were to survive it'd be them...but it didn't happen very often...
    • And you had to lead it. Just being in it didn't guarantee promotion, one had to lead it from the front, and that person also carried the flag of his nation, showing everyone who to kill. See the Sharpe series for more info, as Bernard Cornwell gets it right.
    • All the Little Germanies had "Doppelsöldner" (literally "those who receive double salary") who got double (or triple or...) the wage but had to fight in the first row and to be the first through a breach. 16th century author Sebastian Frank says about them: "Es ist durch die bank hindurch alweg und alzeit ein böss unnütz volk[...] Ist es im krieg, so ist under tausend kaum einer an seinem sold begnuegig, sunder stechen, hawen, gotslestern, huoren, spielen, morden, brennen, rauben, witwen und weisen machen, ist ir gemein handwerk und höchste kurzweil. Wer hierin küen und keck ist, der ist der best und ein freier landsknecht; der muoss vornen daran und ist würdig, das er ein doppelsoldner sei."translation  Yeah, he didn't particularly like them.
    • The Romans had the Corona Muralis which was awarded to the first soldier over an enemy city's wall. According to Polybius it was a literal golden crown.

Military - Specifics

  • A common tactic of the Celtic and Germanic tribes encountered by the Romans (at least before they hit on the idea of the shield wall). Their warriors almost always outnumbered the legions, and tended to just charge at them in a great, unorganised mass. The results were usually quite one-sided in Rome's favour.
  • Russia is especially infamous for doing this throughout many of the wars it fought.
    • There's a Hungarian saying along the lines of " many as the Russians" (neighbouring Slovenia has the saying as well). Hungary lost both the revolutionary war in 1849 and the anti-Soviet rebellion in 1956 due to the enemy calling in Russian reinforcements, who employed this tactic, and of course Hungary was a member of the Axis during World War II and was thoroughly conquered by the Soviets in 1944-45. Note that while this is at least an arguably fair assessment of what happened in 1849, it's less so for 1944 and 1956:
      • In 1849, while one might expect the Hungarian revolutionaries to be disorganized, they really weren't. The Hungarian revolutionaries had seized control of the Hungarian state machinery through relatively official channels before the decisive break with Vienna, and were able to get some units of the Habsburg army to follow them. As a result, the Hungarian Republic started with a strong and well-balanced regular army; meanwhile, the more hastily organized Honved militia battalions actually got some good training and managed to beat all the Habsburg armies arrayed against them—pushing them almost all the way to Vienna—before the Russians came in from the East and the Habsburgs came in from the West and effectively squashed them flat.
      • In 1944, the Soviet Army was a well-trained, well-equipped regular army; meanwhile, the quasi-fascist Hungarian regime's army, while just as professional originally, was badly battered. The Soviet numerical advantage was mostly icing on the cake.
      • In 1956, it was a well-equipped and trained regular army against mostly Ragtag Bunch of Misfits rebels. There were no need to use human-wave tactics, so Hungarians' version of the story is probably just a feel-better tale.
    • During World War One, as the Germans were pounding the French into jelly at Verdun, the Entente powers asked Czar Nicholas to launch an attack on the Eastern Front to take some of the pressure off before the French Army was annihilated. The Russian Army had no plans or equipment to launch an attack of the scale required, so the attack they launched was less of a battle and more of a true Human Wave attack. The supply situation was so bad, as many Russians died from frostbite as from combat.
    • Josef Stalin of course, applying We Have Reserves and the "Cannon Fodder" concept to the fullest extent in the first phases of the Great Patriotic War. When the Soviets got back on their feet and developed their Deep Battle doctrine, the Zerg rushes of 1941 and 1942 became much less common, instead relying on sophisticated maneuver attacks. After you lose 20 million men, there is not a whole lot of manpower to throw at the problem. "Human waves" (which usually involved a ton of tanks too) came about mostly due to circumstance rather than choice; the supply situation was bad with artillery and tanks often breaking down or running out of shells due to lack of spare parts and ammunition, and the communication situation wasn't much better with various units cut off from each other and small-unit level radios being rare. In such a circumstance, standard Soviet doctrine was usually to counterattack.
    • Later in the war, as Soviet industry recovered from the initial shock of the invasion and there were sufficient stocks of small arms to equip every man in uniform, the USSR switched from human waves to artillery waves. By 1944 and 1945, Soviet artillery bombardments were measured in kilotons, and were targeted against sectors of the front which were a couple of miles wide and 12 miles deep. This was combined with a large misdirection component — which caused the Germans to spread out their forces or even deploy them in the wrong place outright — and with tanks and self-propelled guns which were significantly superior to their german counterparts.
    • Russia made very poor use of this tactic in their invasion of Finland, where guerrilla tactics inflicted severe damage on the Red Army. In particular, their tanks subscribed heavily to this tactic, but in doing so, they were often exposed to unconventional weapons, like Molotov cocktails. Then the distinguished but incompetent in modern warfare Civil War Era generals were dismissed and replaced by the younger, more relevant leaders, the tactics were adjusted, and in two months the Red Army rolled Finns flat.note  But this came at enormous cost; while Finland suffered 26,000 men killed in the war, the Soviets lost 127,000. One Red Army general is reputed to have said, "We have won just about enough ground to bury our dead."
    • During the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, an Ukrainian presidential advisor being interviewed about the future Russian military plans literally said that the Russians were "preparing a Zerg rush for us", expecting Russia to deploy large numbers of poorly armed volunteer soldiers to try to overwhelm the Ukrainian defenses. The journalist conducting the interview was confused, having not heard the term before, leading to the advisor having to explain the definition and origin of this trope.
  • The Japanese used Banzai charges to great effect in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War, even against fully-alerted, unbroken infantry. But then, the majority of Chinese troops were poorly trained and poorly supplied. Often, Chinese soldiers were expected to hold off Japanese attacks with bolt-action rifles and stick grenades, while Japanese troops were frequently supported by artillery, tanks, poison gas and airplanes. Banzai charges could be stopped easily by machine guns, but most Chinese platoons only had one light machine gun on average, with every battalion only getting a single heavy machine gun. This lead to many cases where Japanese soldiers, well-trained in bayonet fighting, would charge screaming through Chinese rifle fire and inflict heavy casualties on the defenders. Most Chinese troops (from the Guomindang, Guominjun, Guangxi Clique, Communist China and Yunnan) seldom had any artillery (using mortars instead) or even barbed wire; they had no air support for many years, with the GMD only getting sufficient air support by 1944. Most warlord soldiers (with the exception of the Guangxi Clique) were even worse-equipped; in the early border clashes with Japan and its puppet states, they could even count themselves lucky if they had bolt-action rifles and a literal handful of ammunition. note  But the US was as well-equipped relative to Japan as the Japanese were relative to China; at the Battle of the Coral Sea, the US would have more surface ships than the Japanese had aircraft, and infantry were equipped to match. (US infantry also carried a semi-automatic rifle, the M1 Garand; both China and Japan still used bolt-action rifles with five-round magazines.) So, while US troops feared banzai charges as demoralizing and unsettling, they weren't particularly vulnerable to them; the failed charge at Henderson Field was the first of many. A decisive factor was that the Americans had plenty of automatic weapons to back up their infantry, while the Japanese were in short supply of automatics. But Japanese commanders falsely claimed that the tactic still worked, meaning that it stuck around until 1944.
  • The Korean War had many examples of the Zerg Rush. North Korean forces (or sometimes, Chinese Volunteer Forces) would sometimes attack in massive waves usually with inadequate armament. One example being a human wave of people carrying nothing but baskets of grenades. Another being human waves of men armed only with submachine guns, charging over clear terrain from far outside their weapons effective range, against Americans armed with long-range rifles. These moments were still tense for the Americans, but they also found that the closer the Koreans and Chinese got, the more effective their rifles got, as their bullets would start going through their attackers, and continue on to hit another person in the wave. Important to note is that the Chinese military doctrine of a "short attack" was actually a combination of infiltration and shock tactics where fireteams would come as close to the enemy positions under any cover (typically night) and concentrate all their forces on specific breakthrough points where successive fireteams would be sent in to create a breach in the enemy positions and then the bulk of Chinese forces would move in the widen the breach. The attacks would be carefully timed to minimise casualties, however due to primitive communications fireteams would be sent in until either the Chinese ran out of ammunition or a breach was finally opened up. This created a strong impression on the UN forces and resulted in the popular joke "How many hordes are there in a Chinese platoon?"
    • Other Wiki says "US Army historian Roy Edgar Appleman observed that the term "human wave" was a metaphor used by journalists and military officials to convey the idea that the American soldiers were assaulted by overwhelming numbers of enemies, but it had no relation to the real Chinese infantry tactics of the same period." Much the same is said of the Nazi German and subsequent NATO opinion of the (Soviet) Red Army's strategic manoeuvres and tactics, which were essentially (and dangerously, given their actual levels of post-war organisation and competence) dismissed as just what you'd expect of Dirty Communists. That said, UN and Red Army records show several battles (Chosin, Spring Offensive, Hamburger Hill), wherein Chinese and North Korean forces were forced to make frontal assaults on UN forces with everything they had. This was hardly their favourite tactic (just as no-one at the Somme wanted to charge headfirst across no-man's-land into a sea of German MG rounds), but it was the best of a very bad series of options if they were caught out in the open (whilst preparing for more regular manoeuvres). While the Chinese were far savvier than most give them credit for, it's still hard to swallow the extent to which the Chinese leadership was willing to accept the sort of losses that came with their huge disadvantage in armour, air-power, and artillery.
  • During the American Civil War, the Union generals who typically won more battles were unafraid to lose massive amounts of men. In particular, several politicians rallied for Lincoln to fire Ulysses S. Grant due to the massive casualty rates of his soldiers.note  However, since Grant was one of the few generals Lincoln could count on to strike hard at the Confederates, Lincoln kept him on.
    • The Federals also had a higher population density then the Confederates. Thus Federal units could be recruited as needed, while Confederate units were mostly local military fraternities. The Federals also made extensive use of the Scorched Earth doctrine, using their quickly assembled units to smash Confederate economy and thus fulfill the RTS definition of a Zerg Rush (though it's worth noting that the South did plenty of the scorching themselves, to prevent supplies from falling into the North's hands). However, while the Union did suffer (roughly) 60% more casualties, the KIA excess was only 10%. Considering that the Confederates usually enjoyed the defending position (in the later years of the war, at any rate), and that the Civil War constituted the early days of trench warfare, with the known results during World War I, the numbers don't exactly point to rash tactics and disregard of one's own troops. Politicians lobbying against Grant had more to do with politicking after they decided the war was as good as won, using casualties as a pretext, than concern for the troops or about the general conduct of the war.
    • Bigger irony: while the casualties were terrible, the losses would almost certainly have been much lower if not for leaders trying hard not to get people killed or at least eager to avoid battle. McClellan essentially threw away the single most promising position of the war, with his troops in huge numbers and his guns available to pound Richmond and Johnson (later Lee). During Grant's campaign against Lee, he faced time and time again great advantages being ignored or lost by poor leadership at the Junior officer and even General officer level. The result was that the war was prolonged, eventually resulting in a shattered South and massive manpower losses - but also the complete destruction of slavery.
    • Interestingly enough, whenever you run the numbers Lee's casualty rate is somewhere between 19-23% depending on whose numbers you are using while Grant's is somewhere between 11-15%. So while Grant did lose more men overall, he was able to defeat Lee through raw attrition, a fact he recognized based on the simple mathematics: he could replace his losses, Lee couldn't. Even with the 3:2 casualty rate at the end of the war, it was still a net gain for the Union.
    • It's also important to remember that throughout history right up until World War II more soldiers were lost to disease than battle. The longer the war drags on without resolution, the more soldiers you lose. Therefore, a zerg rush might wind up losing less men because it gets the battle over, rather than spending weeks fighting and losing more to disease.
  • World War I was particularly famous for the trench warfare of the Western Front, a fighting style which both sides were totally unaccustomed to. Throughout the war, hundreds of thousands of men died as both sides tried to repeatedly use mass wave attacks to achieve a "breakthrough" of the other side's defensive line, despite the fact of continued failure. Because both sides had created such a long trench line, neither could outflank the other, forcing attacks to be frontal assaults, which were made woefully ineffective with the introduction of the machine gun.
    • Made even worse by fact that there was no effective way to disrupt the enemy rail networks; so that even if a hole was punched through the first line of trenches the defender could rush troops to plug the gap faster than the attacker could reinforce their success.
    • Note that the Americans were accustomed to trench warfare on account of the Civil War experience, and placed emphasis on mobility once they got to Europe. Of course, by then the war was almost over - in no small part on account of Germany throwing everything into one last desperate offensive in the hopes of winning the war before the Americans came. After the failure of the German offensive, the German position in the West was essentially untenable, but they managed to hide that fact from both the civilian parts of the German government and the Allies. When the Americans started going on the offensive together with their allies, the German Empire collapsed within a hundred days militarily. At the cost of over a hundred thousand American casualties - more than double of what both sides combined suffered at Gettysburg.
    • In World War I, trench warfare itself wasn't the problem so much as evolutions in military technology. Traditional infantry and cavalry tactics against machine guns, poison gas and modern artillery was suicidal, as the opening month in France and Belgium showed. The Eastern Front between Germany/Austria and Russia featured more traditional, mobile campaigns yet accrued casualties comparable to (indeed, often in excess of) the Western Front. Traditional means of warfare weren't entirely obsolete, though. A cavalry charge in the First Battle of The Marne worked perhaps a little too well as a shock attack against the Germans as well as another cavalry charge in 1918 by the Canadians in the Battle of Moureil Wood, which was so successful against the entrenched machine-gunners that it entirely froze the Spring Offensive in its tracks, but at the same time cost the cavalry unit most of its horses and many of its men. And a few infantry bayonet charges in the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915 temporarily worked.
  • During World War II, the German military made effective use of this tactic, which they called the Blitzkrieg (Lightning War). When they invaded Poland, France, and Russia, they used fast moving vehicles to rush the enemy and bypass areas of strong resistance while simultaneously separating enemy army components, and using their air force to bomb critical enemy logistics and military structure. After disrupting the enemies rear lines and throwing them into chaos, the regular Army sweeps in and destroys pockets of resistance in piecemeal.
    • Similarly, the allied bombing campaigns against the Axis powers. In fact, bombing strategy of the time in general tended to center on massing enough aircraft to bullrush their way through the defenses to lay in their attacks, but this was most famously used by the heavy bombers of the US Army Air Forces and their daylight "Precision Bombing" campaigns in Europe. The effectiveness is much debated, however the German military was forced to disperse manpower and resources to provide air defense all across the continent, which they could have otherwise used in Africa, Italy, France, or Russia. Perhaps the most effective component of the American air war on Germany was the "Oil Campaign" which deliberately targeted the petrochemical resources of Germany, which were scarce anyway. Several German generals and politicians said after the war that the Oil Campaign was a key aspect to their defeat. Ultimately, the strategy worked because the Americans could build planes and train aircrew faster than the Germans could shoot them down, and the Americans got better at making it more difficult to shoot the bombers down, such as by extending the cruising range of the P-38 fighter (thereby allowing it to escort the bombers all the way to their targets)note . They still paid dearly, however, and during the course of the war, the USAAF lost more men in battle than the entire US Marine Corps.
  • During World War II, the US applied this strategy to shipbuilding. Once the wartime industrial machine got rolling at full capacity, the Americans were able to build merchant ships faster than the Germans could hope to sink them. Indeed, they built escort ships along this strategy as well, resulting in ships like the Escort Carriers. They were built to merchant shipping standards, rather than naval warship standards, and compared to typical aircraft carriers, they were smaller, slower, far less adequately defended, and could only carry about half as many planes. But since the US built over 140 of these "jeep" carriers, they were more than adequate for convoy escort, anti-sub patrols, and providing air support for land forces, freeing up the full-size carriers for higher priority missions. On top of that, the back of the Japanese carrier force was broken early in the war at the Battle of Midway, and the Germans never fielded any aircraft carriers to oppose the Allies with, so being better than nothing proved to be more than good enough for the escort carriers.
    • The sailors called those "jeep" carriers as "Kaiser'snote  Coffins" and "Combustible, Vulnerable, Expendable" (their Navy hull code being CVE). A bit unfair, as only half a dozen were lost in combat (about half to submarines, about half to kamikazis, and one went down under the guns of the Japanese battleship Yamato.)
  • European warfare in the 18th century, after the devastation of 16th and 17th century total wars, had become a sort of song and dance with opposing generals actually meeting each other to mutually minimize their casualties, and to avoid destroying the actual resource they were fighting over. This style of warfare is actually exactly the method which Sun Tzu's "At of War" sees as the most efficient - to win the enemy by manoeuvre, and attacking his plans and alliances instead of his forces. The rule of warfare was to wear brightly colored uniforms so that everyone knew just who was on whose side, and to use thin files so one row at a time could fire, then get out of the way while they reloaded. This was (relatively) predictable, respectable (in context), and (relatively) civilized; because highly disciplined, professional soldiers in this form of warfare were expensive to train, keep, and equip, sieges became the dominant form of warfare in the Early Modern Period. Once the attackers had dug in and prepared entrenched field guns, most defenders took the opportunity to surrender, keep their weapons, and retire to friendly territory. In a case of victory, this system also usually provided better outcomes of war than outright carnage and devastation. This system ended with The French Revolution; suddenly you have a French army five times its pre-Revolution size, much less trained as a whole, aggressive as a hornet's nest and directed by a government more encroaching on the general populace than the kings could ever manage and under attack by most of its neighbors (and then going on for the counter-attack), with generals who had none of these dainty sensibilities and qualms about where replacements for killed soldiers were going to come from or what the upper crust in snooty aristocratically-run nations would think...
  • Highland Charges in the 17th and 18th century. Unlike what happened in Braveheart, traditional Scottish tactics called for tight and disciplined blocks of infantry. When newer firearms made those tactics obsolete, they switched to long lines no deeper four ranks which would advance to musket range (around 50-60 yards), fire off a volley, drop to the ground in expectation of a return volley, and then abandon their guns while using the musket smoke as cover to make a screaming charge at the enemy line, which was aided by the use of targes with one-handed swords/dirks to deflect bayonets and extremely successful when their enemies would quickly break ranks. When other armies started training their armies to defend against them, they got massacred.
    • Other factors, such as improved firearm drill, the invention of the ring bayonet (which was always attached unlike the earlier plug bayonet which had to be mounted as needed because it went into a gun's barrel and prevented it from firing) and canister shot, also made the strategy obsolete.
    • The strategy mostly died off after the disastrous Battle of Culloden. The battlefield was almost custom-made to stop a highland charge and the Scottish commander was an incompetent who ignored the advice of his officers to start the fight before the regulars were in position. The charging soldiers ended up bogged down in the mud, out of formation, and charging the prepared regulars while under artillery fire. The result was an utter Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • The Spanish Civil War degenerated into this quite a bit, most infamously at the Ebro river, which mixed WWI trench warfare with RCW/WWII Eastern Front political persecution. Results were tragic but predictable.
  • Soldiers of the Japanese 3rd Army in the battle and siege of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War. Japanese soldiers hurled themselves against stout fortress defenses, dying by the thousand.
    • Averted. Those charges did absolutely nothing, with thousands of men dying for no ground gained... until the commanders of the infantry and artillery finally agreed to work together, extremely closely, with the artillery deigning to give the infantry preliminary bombardments for their attacks and fire-support on-demand once they were underway. The reality of Japanese victory at Port Arthur was nowhere near as cool or interesting as the Zerg Rush thing, though, so guess which story everybody (including the Japanese themselves) heard about courtesy of the war-correspondents there to witness the fighting?
  • Famously subverted at the Battle of Thermopylae, which funneled the massive zerg rushing Persian army into a narrow corridor straight into Greek spears. Numbers counted for nothing. Sun Tzu especially warns of attacking "a pass so narrow a single man can defend it".
  • Employed by both sides of the War of the Triple Alliance, with varying degrees of success. Ultimately for Paraguay though, this approach was catastrophic: after a few initial victories, Paraguay was put on the backfoot and forced into guerrilla warfare in their own country and Francisco Solano López, the ruler of Paraguay and not a mentally stable fellow by any stretch at the start of the war nevermind at this stage, enacted a policy of "everybody fights". And he meant it. The elderly and children as young as nine were dragged into the army by the end of the war, and even Lopez himself was gunned down charging against his captors screaming "I die with my nation!" By the end of the war, so many of Paraguay's male population was dead (90% by some estimates) that the nation almost ceased to exist altogether; the Catholic Church actually lifted the ban on polygamy in Paraguay because there simply weren't enough men to go around by the end of the war.

Non-military examples

  • The internet. Want to get quick results when someone stole your artwork? Got a conflict issue that you want to spread out quick and get support? Post somewhere prolific, with substantial proof. Now sit back and watch as the internet Zerg Rushes someone's mailbox/account...
    • A Zerg Rush is the core element of less organized, 'invasion'-style denial-of-service attacks: If you can ram enough people's packet requests into a system, it can't dispatch answers fast enough and crashes.
    • Particularly nasty hackers not only launch denial-of-service attacks on a site they want to shut down, they'll hijack your computer to do it for them.
    • On social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube this is known as dogpiling. Exploited by people with a large following who want to use their fans as their personal army to attack people with smaller followings to bully them into silence. The actions of these fans can range from hurling insults to doc-dropping and death threats against family members.
      • Do this too often and you risk a counterattack, the zerg rush of dogpiling fans merely becomes seen as a weapon of choice, and the people you initiated this on may band together to do it to you in retaliation en masse. For example, popular antifeminist channels are known for sending their fans after small channels who make videos on feminism. Eventually these small channels have had enough and have decided to call out these larger channels and continue to do so. A few of these large YouTube channels have been suspended as a result.
  • Non intentional use: Could you imagine this tactic with fangirls yelling and going Squee out of the blue? Well, this was actually the reason why The Beatles stopped giving concerts in 1966...
  • Hunter-gatherer societies tend to have taboos against having many children. Agrarian societies encourage large families. (Think about the ideal Chinese family, pre-Deng: Three boys and three girls.) Obviously, the agrarian societies won.
    • This has nothing to do with combat, though. Hunter-gatherer societies tended to have fewer kids because their food source was unreliable; ergo, you wanted a minimum of mouths to feed because you never knew how much food you were going to have. Agrarian societies, on the other hand, have a steady, reliable food source, so the focus is on having enough hands to cultivate the food.
      • Of course, this only works for a time - now it's back to the "1-3 children per family" mindset once civilizations move past the Industrial era.
      • Also consider that almost all hunter-gatherer societies are nomadic. As mothers have to carry babies and small children, they couldn't have too many children, while settled people could have as many children as they could feed.
  • Unix makes spawning processes trivially easy. A malicious user can easily create a fork bomb, a program that reproduces itself until it eats up all the process table entries.
  • You wouldn't think that this would be possible in sports, given the way that teams are normally balanced. Well, China has other ideas about that. Real Madrid football (soccer) club has played a game against a team made up of 109 Chinese children.
  • Try entering "zerg rush" into Google's search bar. You'll be amused!
  • Many spambots and other botnets try to create forum posts faster than the mod/admin personnel can delete them.
  • In the fallout after Iran's 2009 presidential elections, this strategy was on the protesters' side. These riot police don't seem too confident. Any sizable riot going up against riot police is essentially this trope.
    • To what degree, if any, the police sympathize with rioters is a crucial element when considering a Zerg Rush against the government. The Iranian populace and the government have a "tense" relationship, and the economic sanctions levied against Iran for selling arms and developing a nuclear programme shattered the economy. The Internet, global news, and evolving international norms make it difficult for a government to order the slaughter of unarmed civilians without facing sanctions or complete isolation. Governments considered "illegitimate" by the majority of their people tend to become paranoid, but how long those regimes can hold power (both domestically and internationally) before such they slaughter or fall to a Zerg Rush is the open question. Since the mass murder of civilians usually prompts outcry and another Zerg Rush, a sufficiently large protest tends to have the advantage.note 
  • During many of the Communist collapses of the late 80's (Romania is particularly notable for this effect), the regime collapsed precisely because the military ultimately refused to slaughter the rebelling populace (largely because they no longer believed in the regime). Some say the 1989 Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) Square and related protests were heading this way, when troops from the local (Zhili) military district were brought in to get people to disperse. However, as they spoke the same dialect/language and came from the same area, very few were willing to use force to get the striking workers and student protestors to go back to work or to their studies, respectively. The Party had to get the local forces to stand down and then bring in divisions from another military district, briefing them that the city had descended into foreign-orchestrated riots and anarchy, before ordering them to disperse them by force. Maximum force, in some cases, though the numbers are disputed and there is really no way to be sure without access to the CCP's archives. Something similar happened in the USSR too, but there (unlike Romania, which was led by a real autocrat) even the leadership itself was reluctant to use force, and calling for the army was more of a kneejerk reaction rather that the real intent, so everything just kinda petered out.
    • The same business occurred in the The Arab Spring Arab Revolutions of 2011; the governments of Tunisia and Egypt fell more or less because their militaries refused to fire on protesters, and other techniques were useless because of the sheer number of protesters. Libya turned into a Civil War and Syria and Bahrain turned into bloodbaths because the government forces were willing to fire on the people; however, we should note that because the Libyan and Syrian militaries/security forces had similar demographics to the general public, defections to the protesting side kept the situation protracted, while the fact that the Bahraini forces (and the Saudi and Emirati forces they called in to help) were primarily Sunni and the protesters primarily Shia made defections less of an issue, and the uprising was crushed as a result. On the other hand, Morocco explicitly ordered its security forces not to fire on protesters no matter what they did, which is why the protests there never got that big and why the regime was able to get away with moderate reforms.
    • The USSR is an odd case of a nation collapsing peacefully, something that hasn't happened since the advent of the nation-state system. The most westward of the SSRsnote  — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania ("The Baltics") — were already under the doctrine of "Baltic exceptionalism," so when protests began, an armed response was off the table. (The Baltics have historically been considered part of Europe, which was why the Soviet government opted against crushing the rebellion; the odds that the conflict would escalate and turn into a proxy war were far higher. Gorbachev was also in the middle of instituting a number of reforms and caught up in an intra-party war for power, and it's unlikely his worldview would have allowed for armed response (i.e., massive civilian causalities), so the Baltics were the first out.)
    • The Soviet government was the victim of a Zerg Rush itself, led by the president of Soviet RussiaBoris Yeltsin, who stood atop a tank in Red Square demanding sovereignty for all Soviet nations. It could be argued that the government in Russia only changes by Zerg Rush — it was a major tactic of the Bolsheviks, of the pro-democracy movements that ended Soviet rule, and, as of The New '10s, it's the new fear. Vladimir Putin faced protests after his third election to the presidency, the major slogan of which was "Russia without Putin," so the state issued a cap on the number of protestors allowed. It's impossible to know what the effect would have been had protestors not been scared away, but they were the largest protests seen since 1991.
  • In the FAT32 filesystem, each file occupies a minimum of 16KB of disk space, even if its size in bytes is less than that. Thus, tons of tiny files can waste much more disk space than a few big files.
    • The typical cluster size in FAT32 is 4K. You can make it even smaller, but then the cluster table becomes over-large.
    • This actually depends on how the filesystem was setup. File systems addresses space in terms of clusters, in the case of FAT32, 2^32-1 clusters. However, you can set cluster sizes to 64KB, meaning, at the minimum, all files will take up 64KB.
    • Similarly, Google Chrome. Unlike other browsers, each tab is its own process (basically, each tab is run as its own program). While this has benefits such as a small number of tabs running better and crash resistance (one tab crapping out won't cause others to), it also means that having a large number of tabs can end up taking up a disproportionately large amount of memory, even if all those tabs are simply blank pages.
  • In Humans Versus Zombies, this is the only reliable way to take down a good player. Against guys who have real-world combat experiences, anything less than six or so zombies, is not going to do them in.
  • Reportedly used by the passengers on United 93 to defeat the hijackers.
  • Migrants attempt to enter the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla (which are in Africa bordering Morocco) using this tactic. The migrants gather into large groups, rush the fences. Most are caught, but a lucky few make it into Spanish territory and to a refugee center, giving them legal protections from immediate deportation.
  • Gish galloping is this tactic in the debate world. Overwhelm an opponent with as many arguments as possible, and even if the arguments aren't accurate or strong, your opponent cannot refute all of them within the format of a formal debate.
  • A strange example; In late January of 2021, Reddit users bought several failing stocks, most notably those of GameStop, en masse to jack up the value of the brands, thus causing the hedge funds and short sellers betting on the stocks falling to lose millions of dollars. In return, those affected by Reddit's raid invoked a Zerg Rush of their own, by overloading the subreddit r/WallStreetBets, which incited the attack, temporarily crashing it.

  • Picornavirus germs. Usually, for a germ, it is not a good idea to kill your host, since it will also mean your own demise. Picornaviruses avert this fate by simply breeding in gazillions: they are highly contagious and their strategy is to multiply so much that it really does not matter if your host will die or not in the process. Diseases which these nasty germs cause are influenza, poliomyelitis, hepatitis, cattle hoof-and-mouth disease etc.
  • Ants do this. It's called Marabunta. Everything is wasted. They are probably the inspiration from which human wave attacks are drawn.
    • Ant-termite wars are the epitome of this trope, as endless numbers of ants charge matching waves of termites. Every bit as epic as human battles, and casualties are predictably enormous.
    • One African species of ant actually invades the major orifices of its prey and bite at once, inside and out: witness this BBC documentary of a raiding party defeating a freshwater crab by crawling inside its wounds and eating it alive.
    • Driver ants (the siafu) use similar tactics for downing prey. They even apply zerg rushes to physical obstacles, when they encounter an impassable barrier they use themselves as ramps.
    • Even a fight ants vs. ants gets zergrushed. The Argentian ant, much smaller than the indigenous species, invades Europe. Unlike most ants which only function as individual colonies or clusters of colonies, all of them are one huge colony. See The Other Wiki
    • The army ants of South America take the zerg rush concept to its logical extreme. While the ants normally feed using mass foraging, when they enter their nomadic phase the entire colony will move as one to a new home consuming any prey unlucky enough to be in their way. Even large spiders, scorpions and centipede stand no chance
  • In 2007, a massive ten square-mile pack of jellyfish swarmed a salmon farm, killing its entire population of about one hundred thousand fish. The water was so thick with jellyfish that the farm's boats could hardly even move, preventing the personnel from saving any of their salmon.
  • This defense mechanism employed by Japanese honeybees against Japanese Giant Hornets (or “Giant Sparrow Bees”, as they are known locally). Interestingly enough, it's not your typical "sting it 'til it dies" tactic you would expect from a hive of bees, because said hornets can apparently take it. Instead, these bees pile on top of the hornet and vibrate; the actions of the bees raise both the temperature and the carbon dioxide level within the ball. The bees can tolerate 50 °C (122 °F) at that CO2 concentration; the hornet's limit is 46 °C (115 °F), and it gets roasted alive. European and, presumably, African honeybees have lower tolerance for heat and so they cannot employ this tactic.
    • Zerging is a beehive's response to pretty much everything, really...
    • Which is one of the strengths of eusocial superorganisms. One bee is no bee; for them, the hive is the basic unit of life. This means that massive defensive responses begin to make evolutionary sense; the colony survives so long as enough individuals survive to keep the brood safe.
  • Killer bees are KNOWN for doing this.
  • So are piranhas.
  • Dromaeosaurs (or more commonly known as "raptors"), but especially Deinonychus, became famous for their hunting strategy which is extremely similar to that of wolves, and almost every depiction of these dinosaurs shows them savagely mobbing and overwhelming huge plant-eaters. But Science Marches On, and after people have realized this whole theory had been based on more wishful thinking than actual fossil evidence, it has gradually lost its credibility. Then someone claimed to have found support for the idea of pack-hunting among giant theropods, like tyrannosaurids... Science Marches On back the way it came, however! There's at least one fossil trackway evidently made by deinonychosaurs that clearly demonstrates cooperative travelling, which means that the theory of pack-hunting raptors is still plausible. This article explains it all.
  • Bacteria. The Ur-Example of "divide and conquer"....
  • Non-malicious example: baby sea turtles are laid in huge clutches, so that when they hatch they overwhelm their predators with turtles, in the hopes that a few will get through to survive.
  • Sea turtles aren't the only ones. Cicadas emerge in huge numbers to overwhelm their predators, and plenty of the noisemakers escape to breed. Predator Saturation is prey species' version of a Zerg Rush. Several species of trees also have so-called "mast years" during which they produce vastly more seeds than normal. Through not yet entirely understood mechanisms, they manage to coordinate those among all members of the same species in the wider area. Animals (like e.g. squirrels) which usually live off the seeds cannot possibly eat them all and thus the next generation gets its start.
  • A certain species of Australian stingless sugarbag bee does this when invading the hive of another species of bee. Since they're stingless, the bees method of killing is to latch on to an opposing bee with their jaws in a perpetual death grip until both bees die. What an attacking hive will do then is send multiple waves of attacking bees to slowly wear down the opposing hive, only stopping to regroup and "build" more bees for the next wave. It will keep doing this until the enemy hive's capacity to recover from the attacks is totally diminished leading its their defeat. It plays out surprisingly quite like an actual RTS game.
  • Arguably, the human immune system, when working at peak efficiency, destroys invading pathogens by zerg-rushing them with both antibodies and other proteins (the Complement system), followed up by waves of immune system cells to attack the stragglers. In such regard neutrophil white blood cells are the closest equivalent to the Trope Namer, having both a short lifetime and being formed by the bone marrow by the billions daily plus constituting the immune system's frontline.
  • This is the main method of hunting for most pack hunters, attacking a single but much larger target as a group. A gray wolf, for example, may not weigh more than 100-110 lb but by working as a pack of about half a dozen wolves, they regularly take down much larger prey, like a 1,100 lb elk, or even a 2,000 lb bison, though in the latter case, they also rely on their incredible stamina to effectively exhaust the giant bovine to death. Similarly, lionesses (which usually weigh around 300-350 lb) have been documented bringing down young elephants around 3 tons in weight.