Starship Troopers as an origin thread of current Wargaming

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There is no doubt that Robert Heinlein wrote a masterpiece of science fiction literature in 1959 with the publication of Starship Troopers.  It is a military science fiction novel which is told in the first-person narrative about a young soldier named Juan ‘Johnnie’ Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military service branch of ‘The Federation’ who are equipped with ‘powered armour’. Rico’s military career progresses from recruit to non-commissioned officer and finally to officer against the backdrop of an interstellar war between mankind and an arachnid species known as ‘the Bugs’ and also ‘the Skinnies’. Rico and the other characters discuss moral and philosophical aspects of suffrage, civic virtue, juvenile delinquency, corporal punishment, capital punishment, and war.  It is a book of two aspects.  The first being the action and technology of the Mobile Infantry and the second being the structure of The Federation.  I will not go into detail about the moral aspects of the book as it is not my purpose here but I will say that I agree with many points the book makes (not all) and secondly to say that in a social media forum setting invariably makes one suffer from Godwins Law and when posting this article I am sure I will get the same.

I recently listened to the book as an audio through my audible account and it has been years since I last turned the pages of my own paper copy.  Critics of the book have a point when they refer to the lack of a dense plot and deep characters but there is no denying the success of the book much of which was actually to Heinlein’s surprise.  I agree that the plot is very thin but I think that it actually does not matter all that much as the career and thoughts of Rico are the prime mover in the text.  The purpose of this short essay however is not to discuss the book itself but more to see its influence upon the industry where I make my living; that of miniature wargaming and science fiction wargame rules.

It cannot be argued that Starship Troopers has not had a big influence upon science fiction in terms of books, films and more which followed it.  This was in the 1960’s with The Forever War by Haldeman and also Harry Harrison’s lower brow Bill the Galactic Hero both putting their own takes on Starship Troopers.  These served to flesh out and humanise the core ideas of the original book in different directions and indeed to this day authors such as John Scalzi pattern their tales upon Heinlein and his work.  A whole generation grew up with the book and then an Avalon Hill Board Game as well as early home computer games with the setting.  But it was in 1986 for wargaming in particular that arguably the greatest combination of events EVER for science fiction wargaming occurred with the release of the seminal Aliens movie.  Aliens directed by James Cameron riffs heavily upon Starship Troopers and borrows lines and concepts from it such as the infamous ‘Bug Hunt’.  This powerful combination locked into the mind of wargamers just want a possible future would be and to this day it is one of the most reliable narratives for scenario settings including the recent Osprey book Bug Hunts by Mark Latham which is literally this combination.

While there are other powerful combinations such as that of Dune and the original Laserburn into Rogue Trader one and the Japanese Anime Mecha into Techomancy one I would say that Starship Troopers and Aliens combine into the biggest for wargaming overall.  Powered Armour features very heavily in science fiction wargaming as does chisel jawed alpha men with no deep personalities both are from this start.  An alien enemy implacable and totally unlike us has a beginning in Starship Troopers too.  In fact Yoshiyuki Tomino, the creator of the mecha anime TV series Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)  cited Starship Troopers as an important inspiration. He coined the term “mobile suit” used to name the piloted mecha from the anime series as a reference to the novel’s own ‘mobile infantry’. All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka is a newer example. In direct terms the game by Mongoose Publishing in 2005 which picked up on the 1997 movie written by Ed Neumeier and directed by Paul Verhoeven license is the biggest thing done in purely wargaming terms with Starship Troopers.  Though I enjoyed the film the movie and the game have little to do with the original book.

For Science Fiction Wargaming two core aspects of the book shine through as pioneering.  The innovation of powered armour exoskeletons used by the Mobile Infantry. Suits controlled by the wearer’s own movements, but powerfully augmented a soldier’s strength, speed, weight-carrying capacity (which allowed much heavier personal armament), and jumping ability (including jet and rocket boost assistance), and provided the wearer with improved senses (infrared vision and night vision, radar, and amplified hearing), a completely self-contained personal environment including a drug-dispensing apparatus, sophisticated communications equipment, and tactical map displays. Their powered armour made the Mobile Infantry a hybrid between an infantry unit and an armoured one.  Wargamers adore all kinds of amour in this fashion.  The other core was that of space-borne infantry. The heavily mechanised units of M.I. troops were attached to interstellar troop transport spacecraft, which then delivered them to planetary target zones, by dropping groups of Mobile Infantrymen onto the planet surface from orbit via individual re-entry capsules. The uses for such a force—ranging from smash-and-burn raids, to surgical strikes, conventional infantry warfare, and holding beachheads—and the tactics that might be employed by such soldiers are described extensively and inspire wargamers.

Many wargame miniature producers make miniatures which borrow from Heinlein. Armoured Steel Gorillas as the novel puts it as common as ‘Power Armour’ or ‘Mobile Suits’ or ‘Battlesuits’ or ‘Dreadnoughts’ or ‘Mates’ etc giving a single man the mighty of a whole platoon of conventional troops.  I will not quote makers since there are too many and indeed some may not even realise the origin since as time moves on each subsequent generation borrows or is inspired by the last.  HALO with its ‘Spartans’, now a tabletop game by Spartan Games in the UK, owes its lineage to the Mobile Infantry in this sense.

I will say that my own creations in wargaming have been influenced by Starship Troopers though not directly up to this point.  I have made use of powered armour and of deep space transports to deliver soldiers to the warring front.  But in that I am common for this is the very crux of sci-fi to many.

In conclusion Starship Troopers is a vital thread to wargaming without which there would be a mighty big gap in both the technology commonly regarded as military for miniatures and games but also in the terminology and mindset of wargamers for the portrayal of alien life as a hive mindset.  In fact when you take out everything that came from Starship Troopers the cupboard is rather bare and barren.  The book is the origin and jumping off point for a thousand other works which lead us to now.

Thanks for your time.

GBS

Asked for a new way into Flintloque…delivered!

This week my latest project was breathed to life and appeared on the Alternative Armies website.  A new beginners entry into Flintloque the Skirmish 3rd edition.  I had been asked many times across last year by wargamers ‘how do I get into this excellent setting!’.  After a long bit of thinking and an idea to try out some new concepts I came up with 5024 Escape from the Dark Czar.  A complete beginners set with booklet, miniatures, bases and dice.  You can see it on the website from Friday 27th January.

The booklet itself is twenty pages and builds upon the Witchlands campaign setting begun by Mike Roberts and the core engine of 3rd edition worked up by Mike White. An introduction to the campaign followed by character profiles and then the core rules of play after which are three small scenarios for use with the miniatures and then two pre-filled rosters; one for each side.  It is an excellent looking tightly packed booklet featuring the artwork of my good friend Edward Jackson on its cover and in its inner pages.

Sam Croes the lead designer at Alternative Armies came up with the ideas for the miniatures in the set.  We decided to produce the ten miniatures in resin and importantly in bulk allowing us to keep the price down on this introduction for wargamers.  However it is not likely I will commission more resin infantry for Flintloque as it is a white metal range, which I love, and this was an experiment after all.  We will stick to using resin to keep the weight down and price of things like Trolka and Cavalry Mounts.  That said they are fantastic figures indeed.  Full of character touches.  The Ogre is my favourite.

I also took this chance to collate the massive folder of free files which exist for Flintloque and Slaughterloo and in the process create a mighty stack now online for download for free.  See the same page on the website for the download link.  It is some 95mb in size and represents some four years work on my own and others part.

I hope that you enjoy this new beginners set.  I had a lot of fun writing it and playtesting it last autumn.

On other topics.  I do not update this blog all that often.  I just do not have the time down to my work, my family and so on. There are only so many hours in the day. So I have a plan for this year…it will come in stages and start soon.

GBS

Galactic Knights..what will be chosen?

Over on the 15mm.co.uk blog today I put up a short post about the possible expansion of the popular HOF105 Galactic Knights pack of miniatures along with the top suggestions for what the extensions might be.  The extension depends on reaching the magic number of 500 packs sold.  I am sure this will happen.  We were thirty off when I put the post up and as of right now we are twenty one packs short.  So with that settled what will the expansion be?  Read the link before continuing.

While it will depend on feedback in total I have my own guess.  My own guess is that everything and more than was suggested will be asked for but the majority will ask for support weapons and also a female pack of Galactic Knights with a possible bare headed or command type bolt on.  Will I be correct?  We will see end of this month or so when the numbers are tallied.  Sam Croes is keen to make more of these unique humans in 15mm scale but he has totally deferred to public input on this.

I would like to thank everyone of the hundreds who email us and comment and react every month about our products.  Your energy keeps me smiling.

GBS

I got me a tower..of sorts.

Its our biggest code on the Ion Age so far and this little look at it gives you a taste before release day. Our birthday month is heating up and thanks to everyone who has sent in kind words and picked up the figures they missed from the Year One Collection. Read on and dream of a grand space opera setting.  Go to the Ion Age blog and excuse me after a massive typing day for not saying more here inside my own head blog.

GBS

Ion Age Year One Collection now online!

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Have a look at one of the blogs that I run.  My baby brand The Ion Age is about to be one year old and its got me really pumped up and happy.  There is a lot of 15mm scale science fiction wargaming on the global market. In fact its just about the most vibrant and busy genre and scale as far as I can tell.  This means the ideas and therefore the competition is intense.  Far more so that back in 2005-6 when I brought Laserburn back to the market and Alien Squad Leader gave my 15mm.co.uk dominance in the marketplace for a few years.  Despite and because of this The Ion Age is doing really well with the ethos of fun, afforable, characterful space opera with a more old school look and taste.  In fact its going well enough to be occupying more of my own time than I expected.  So August will be a month of celebration and offers and gifts as well as new releases.

I will be talking more about this and also addressing my own personal failings to get Patrol Angis to the market within the first year but more on that later.  For now its pumped and happy.

GBS

Taken from Alternative Armies blog – Modular Elf Dragoons

“Captain Sharke looked grim. The scars on his face were livid in the cold of the Catalucian mountains and there was a fleeting inch of snow on the barren ground around him. With an eye long used to war Sharke was watching distant horses down in the sheltered valley while he and a half dozen Rifleorcs were up the hill side where they could not be followed. Damn Dragoons, damn ruddy Elves. Why was it always these pointy eared prancing Ferach that made his life hell. Everywhere in Catalucia the threat of roving patrols of Dragoons kept the Army of Albion on its toes. While the distant port city of Kooruna was the goal of the marching army he was headed away from them on his own mission. Well he would be if he could just get shed of these damn Dragoons. Sharke told the rest of the Orcs to get to their feet and they grumbled and grunted in cold limbed discomfort. It was warmer in the valley, the wind did not cut as deep into sodden uniforms. But on the ridges and hill tops they remained; for a sabre from horseback could and would cut all the deeper.”

Ever since the start of the germ of the idea that would become the huge range that is now Flintloque was first shown to me many years ago (1996) something has stuck in my mind. Those who have had the fortune to play Flintloque or Slaughterloo with me in person will know that I am a big fan of the Ferach Empire of the Armorican Elves. That is the nation that I like to play on the wargame table. Yes, I choose the Elf Voltiguers in the original box set not the Orc Rifles!

So, what was my idea. Well, during the writing period of 5025 War in Catalucia it occurred to me that although the miniature range had a large variety of Elves and a set of excellent elite cavalry in the form of the Corps Imperial des Dragons the Armoricans did not have Line Dragoons. That is the typical cavalry version of the typical infantry found in 51504 Elf Line Infantry; something for all seasons and reasons. Ferach Elf Line Dragoons were something that had a good fit to the Catalucian campaign and indeed beyond. I asked around and players agreed that this would be a set of miniatures ideally suited to battlefield and skirmishing alike. With that agreement the long process was begun in the winter to bring Ferach Elf Line Dragoons to the wargaming table.

Alternative Armies prefers to produce miniatures in white metal that are single piece with an integral base meaning little in the way of assembly but with a potential for conversions and personalisation. This time I wanted to try something a little different with the Dragoons. I wanted more variety in horses and in riders too. Not a plan for the whole range, oh no, but tried out here. After a lot of concept sketching and looking at uniforms and horses we came up with a modular system in white metal that I hope will really appeal.

The next blog post about the Ferach Line Dragoons will show and tell you a lot more but for the moment I will say that the modular concept reached a state of master molding at the start of this month. It has worked better than I had hoped and it means the ability to assemble a horse in a variety of poses and riders in such a variety of posing that a whole unit will never look the exact same twice. These will be fitting foes for fleeing infantry Valon wide and in every Elf army.

If anyone has questions please do ask them or email me with them and I will do my best to answer. I know its been slow for Flintloque in the last year but that is changing. This is the start and there is a lot more to come. Something about a sea port city and trying to get there next…

Thanks for Reading.

GBS

Original Blog Post Here.

Going on all three platforms now!

Today marked a grand day for me personally.  A day I have been working towards since last year.  A day that proves if you try hard enough you can actually achieve next to anything.  Do not take that as some sort of self improvement propaganda its simply a plan with a lot of hard work.  Thousands of hours and admittedly a thousand disappointed people (I do have to sleep and see my children) have taken me to this day.  While I will resume my game development and so on soon today is all about the Three Platforms.  Alternative Armies on its new website launched Project Darkhelm, 15mm.co.uk on its new website released the second to last re-mastered code for Laserburn and lastly following up on last month’s awesome early supporter deal my baby The Ion Age ramps up for its One Year Anniversary with another great offer on hover vehicles.  We are back to the situation of one year ago plus more with weekly releases across three platforms or websites and their connected blogs.

Click on the links for details and forgive me not explaining it all here as I have already typed some six thousand words today plus other tasks.

I would actually be interested to hear if anyone out there manages so many different brands and systems and their support.  We could have quite a good conversation I think.  I admire other workers in the industry and enjoy the chats I do have with several of them each week.  So.  A little round of applause for me and a bow, thank you.  I would have posed this yesterday in lead in but I was happily attending my old haunt Glasgow University to attend the graduation of my sister in law Kirsten Loy.  Congratulations girl and well done.  A full post soon on this with my own reflections at returning some 12 years to the day since I myself graduated and not since.

Enjoy the pictures and thanks for all the kind words on Google Plus and other forums too.  I adore you all…really 🙂

GBS

Pioneering with The Ion Age

The Ion Age is continuing to grow in infamy (I like that word more than fame, it suits the world just now rather well) and today I saw my first ‘conversion’ of our miniatures.  Above you can see some Shia Khan Pioneers in 15mm scale turned into Galafraxian Black Guards.  Yes those are eye stocks!

This made me smile among what is now a truly awesome amount of work which I must carry out.  I try not to let customers down and as such I answer every email sent to me and I try to make things run smoothly all the time.   I will be working on Patrol Angis full time as of this week along with an overhaul of the Alternative Armies website.  That will keep me from posting overly much.  I have signed up to follow Allison M the chap who created these images and made the conversions.

The quasi-humanoid, photosynthetic Garafraxians (colloquially called “Chloros”) use heavy armour to protect their fragile bodies during combat.  Their long eye stalks give them excellent depth perception and peripheral vision however, so they generally extend them out of their suits except when in immediate danger.  The suits are lined with red-LED arrays to maintain their metabolism far away from their home star’s nourishing rays.

You can find the original blog posting HERE.  Lastly congratulations to the blog runner…enjoy those coming sleepless nights and demands on your time!

GBS

To Lark and Land my Resin Week

There is a lot going on at work just now.  Major product releases one after another.  This has meant less time for me to do much in the way of hobby or personal time projects but its well worth a blog post here.  So what has the week for me been?

Its all been about buildings, vehicles and aliens in 15mm scale.  15mm scale means that a human being of average height is about a centimetre and a half tall as a miniature.  Its a great scale as it means very large objects can be modelled affordable and well without a huge expenditure of energy.   The aliens were the brand new Prang, alien raiders and soldiers over on 15mm.co.uk.  These chaps made by my friend Eli Arndt over in the USA are great fun and suggestions for their use range from pirates to bodyguards.  If you are interested in seeing them pop along to the blog for that website.  The vehicles, well that was Sam Croes beautiful Skylark Patrol Flyer a resin kit in 15mm scale for The Ion Age.  You can see it on top of the tower in the above image.  Terrain came in the shape of the landing pad that tops off the tower in the above image.  You can read more on the Ion Age blog.

Typically I do the writing, blogging, web work and photo editing for releases and I am not interrupted much by customers or fans while doing it but in the last seven days its been a total opposite.  Many have been praising and asking about these new items.   This is the focal point of this posting.  It makes me smile.  Being asked what something will look and what it will cost and if there is a story to it is very invigorating it makes you realise that people care.  Frankly it makes me sure that investing my time and efforts into this universe was the right thing to do.

That said I do hope to read my copy of Escape from New York over the weekend..if I have time.

GBS