Dropship Horizon editor Eli has started some very lively discussions at TMP recently. Two topics in particular have been inspirational to me - sample alien infantry packs and "complete" lines of minis. In the latter, Eli suggests that armies of the future (especially alien armies) simply may not fight in squads of riflemen with heavy weapon support - and that we need to break away from the model of 20th-21st century forces in our sci-fi games.
These topics have been discussed before here on Dropship Horizon (SAW Debate and Fire Teams). So here is my take on this topic, building somewhat on what Eli and Mark have discussed.
A complaint heard from 15mm gamers is that there are many good minis, but they won't be playable until the lines are "complete." I'll look at two example product lines, both from Critical Mass Games.
The Protolene Khanates range represents what most gamers would view as a "complete" line. You can purchase command, rifle infantry, support weapons like heavy guns and snipers, and even some close combat troops for gamers who like a little melee in their sci-fi games. If I was to sit down and create a FUBAR army from this range, it would look something like this:
- Command Squad - 2x leader from Hunters Command pack (one converted with a comms antenna or with some kind of medical markings), 1x Hunters with Rifles, 1x Hunter with Particle Cannon
- 3x Hunter Squads - each with 1x leader from Hunters Command Pack, 5x Hunters with Rifles, 2x Hunters with heavy weapons
- 2x Predator Squads - just use two packs of Predators as-is
Pretty straightforward, right? 44 infantry - great for a platoon-size engagement. Add vehicles to taste and you have an army - suitable for anything from Traveller Striker to Alien Squad Leader to 5150 to Tomorrow's War. Exactly what the majority of 15mm sci-fi gamers seem to be looking for - the definition of a "complete" product range.
But hey - before we check out, let's see what else is on this particular website. What about that little section labeled Mercenaries? Say, what do we have here?
Well check those out. Neat sculpts, cool looking weapons. But there are no other packs? Where are the heavy weapons? The commanders? The close combat specialists? The vehicles? I can't possibly buy these and be expected to create a complete army out of them, can I?
Let's take a close look at these troopers. Their armor and weaponry wouldn't be out of place in any military space-opera setting. You could easily see these fighting against Imperial Clone Troopers, or even against the Centauri Republic from Babylon 5. They are carrying energy weapons that could be far more advanced than an opponent - even the pistols might have a 24-30" range on the tabletop. The second and fourth weapons could easily be heavier weapons - one anti-personnel, one anti-tank. Or maybe one is a short range weapon capable of placing many shots, while the other is a long-range sniper rifle that is equally suited for tanks as it is troops? And command - you have a figure with an enclosed helmet. It's easy to imagine that each squad leader has one of these helmets to communicate with other squads, vehicles, or the battlefield commanders. And the army commander himself? Could be on a starship in high orbit, could be sealed in an IFV, or his army could be so well trained and equipped that designating a "commander" on the battlefield doesn't amount to any change in stats or usage.
Six packs of these would yield thirty high-tech infantry - easily a match for the more conventional Protolene Khanates mentioned above. But what about vehicles? My first instinct would be some of the goodies in the Kaamados section, but those are still a bit more conventional than I'd prefer. Let's find something advanced and intimidating to match our high-tech infantry. Two options come to me for this. The first is the Alien AFV/APC set from Old Crow Products.
And the second is the High-Tech Grav series from Ground Zero Games.
Since these aliens are a bit smaller in stature, I'm going to go with the GZG stuff to match them. Though the Old Crow vehicles are also pretty great in this role - I may later match them with a Critical Mass Astagar (snake-men) army. But the GZG stuff looks like a good match to the Ygs. Just a few of the light tanks are probably all you'd need on the battlefield (especially since you can make two variants with the different gun barrels). Or if you want to mechanize these guys, the light APC might be big enough for five of these diminutive aliens. Or the heavy APC could carry two teams at once.
So there it is - two complete armies. One is made from a conventionally-minded "complete" infantry range, and the other is made from a simple one-off pack of aliens. Folks, do you really want to just keep playing World War 2 in space? This is sci-fi - your imaginations are probably far more limiting to you than the actual selection of infantry and vehicle models. In fact, the pose limitations might force you to be even more creative in finding ways to get an army to the tabletop. So my challenge to you - pick a "limited" range of infantry (human or alien), and tell us (in the comments) how you can use them in a complete army.