No, I'm not a 'gun nut'. Neither is this a prediliction for a particular firearm or love of firepower. I'm a firm believer that the man maketh the weapon. In fact, see this interestiung article in The Marine Corps Gazette that demonstrates this - the lack of training for SAW gunners reducing their effectiveness in the fight, whilst the cursory training metered out to their assistant all but means that the loss of the prime SAW gunner meant the los of the weapon to the firefight.
A range of different weapon systems within our skirmish games provides tactical and leadership challenges that having the single weapon "well it is as powerful as a SAW and has a grenade launcher too" argument does not. In effect not giving you a range of weapons at squad level is tactically consigning you and me to a pre 1917 tabletop. Even in the final years of WW1 the British were organised into rifle, 'bomber', Lewis gun and rifle grenade teams.
So the question is, are you playing Sci Fi or Retreat from Mons with space helmets?
OK, so you may argue that the character/characteristics given to the figures themselves in a game makes the difference. Yes it does. I don't disagree. But think how much richer your game is when you have a range of different weapon systems with different deployment, combat ranges and effects to add into the mix. The weapons take on characters themselves and at the very least become character multipliers.
Of course, I'm not just talking SAWs. According to Rethinking The 'Rifle' Platoon again from The Marine Corps Gazette:
The SMAW (Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon), particularly with the thermobaric round, has proven to be one of the most effective weapons used during urban combat in Iraq. Many observers have pointed them out as one of if not the key infantry weapon during the battle of Fallujah in November 2004 and have recommended that their numbers be increased or that one be provided in support of each squad.Yes, but what about future weapons which will put out a lot of rounds like a SAW and have integral Lasers and grenade launchers. With set Lasers to 'dead leg' or 'a bit of a sniffle', and all that future stuff? Sure, but there'll always be more alien greeblies, always be a bigger alien tin can to defeat.
Take a look at the Zas Mercs (Critical Mass Games: Merc 13) in the banner at the top of the page. In a single pack you get two riflemen, a sniper and a SAW/LMG gunner. Even before you've assigned the first Veteran, Average, Novice character to these figs, you have three different military roles and characteristics on your tabletop.
Right, so let's take a pack of say, Rebel Minis' Earth Force Armoured Troops or Drop Troopers. Am I stuffed then? Luckily NO!
Jon at GZG has brought out a wide range of remotes, drones and bots over the past two years which can augment the firepower and reach of the basic riflemen figures. In fact we can create an opportunity out of a pack of just riflemen to think outside of the squad box by embedding a combination of remotes/drones/bots or even androids and walkers/battlesuits into our small level combat formations.
GZG 15mm Sci Fi:
V15-70 Mini Hover Drones
Suddenly our squad or platoon level battle takes on a greater complexity with aerial, armour and artificial intelligence characteristics. We now enter a multi-D (multi-dimensional) combat environment.
"We're on the Grid, five by five"