Thursday, 26 April 2012

Editorial - The Future of Troop Carriers

As 15mm Sci Fi continues to grow, we see an ever-increasing variety of miniatures.  Infantry, buildings, aircraft, mecha, and especially ground vehicles, are being released every month.  The variety suits us well.  Those of us who play in this scale have a huge variety of backgrounds, influences, life experiences, and expectations of our hobby.  But there is one thing  that we all have in common...

We all spend time thinking about the future.   

Yes, I know it's fairly obvious.  It's called science fiction.  We think, we conjecture, we guess, and we invent.  But more to the point - we disagree.  Sometimes it's friendly debates, and sometimes we get downright angry and combative about defending our ideas.  :)  So, in the vein of the previous discussion about prone figures, I thought it might be interesting to hear a few different ideas about future combat systems.  Our first subject?  Armored Personnel Carriers.

If you've ever ridden in one, you'd understand why
they're running out so quickly!
Discussions about vehicle design and size turn downright hostile sometimes.  Which is great in some ways - it means 15mm gamers are getting very passionate about their armies.  But turning a personal opinion into some kind of fact (which, again, we're talking Science Fiction) contributes nothing to our growing hobby.

If they look too small, and you just can't visualize them with your troops - fine!  It's your army, and there are plenty of larger vehicles.  But please believe that the designers and manufacturers know what they're doing when these vehicles are produced.  They are considering both passenger space and the ability to transport these vehicles from theater to theater.

Similarly - what's wrong with liking a vehicle, but giving it a different role?  Example: you think a Combat Wombat LAV or GZG 6-Wheel MICV feels too small to be an APC in your force, but you still like its design.  What about using it for a scout car?  Fire support or retrans vehicle?  Or on the other side, you think a Khurasan Caiman or RAFM Grav APC is too large to be a single-squad transport.  Could it be a platoon carrier?  Or a mobile Tactical Operations Center?

Getting back to the subject, let's take a look at three iconic APCs from popular science fiction.  I'm going to personally match offerings from various 15mm manufacturers with these iconic vehicles to form some general categories.  These opinions, of course, are completely mine.  :)

*     *     *     *     *

First, let's take a look at a simple battle taxi - a futuristic version of Cold War-era APCs.

Going by Games Workshop's rules and background fluff, the Rhino is a basic workhorse in the 41st millennium.  Sure, it has a few advances over today's vehicles... it can operate in a vacuum, the crew can make many basic repairs, etc.  But at its core, this isn't much different from, say, an M113.  Here's the basic facts about this type of APC:
  • Armed only for self-defense
  • Lightly armored
  • Crams its passengers in like sardines
  • Small and light enough to be transported by air/sea/space craft
However, it's fairly obvious that simple "battle taxis" are going by the wayside.  Modern armies are equipped with Infantry Fighting Vehicles instead of APCs.  The key difference?  Offensive capability - these are designed to stay with the troops instead of dropping passengers and returning home.  But modern IFVs still cram their passengers into very confined spaces; it is absolutely imperative that they can be transported to the theater of battle.

1/100 Science Fiction vehicles that I'd personally throw in this category (feel free to disagree):

  • Antenociti's Workshop Hunchback and Karbardin, most of Ground Zero Games', Brigade Models', and Combat Wombat's great APCs, the Rebel Minis Wolverine, RAFM Imp, Old Crow's Claymore, Glaive, and Trojan, and Ravenstar Studios' Blazer, and Khurasan Miniatures' Yozhik, Cafferata, and Karkwagon vehicles. 

From this list, I really want to draw attention to GZG, Antenociti's Workshop, and Combat Wombat.  We sometimes see these vehicles described as "too small" for 15mm figures.  To put it bluntly - they're not.  If you've never had a chance - head to a military museum or display and stand next to modern APCs and IFVs.  They are far smaller than you may realize.  They would appear especially small if you had a 190cm diameter, 15-30cm thick disc glued to your boots!

*     *     *     *     *

On the other end of the APC design spectrum...

Let's think about the AT-AT purely in terms of the films... no Expanded Universe fluff necessary for today.  Basic facts about this type of vehicle:
  • Integrated command and communications suite - a fully-fledged General has no limitations commanding the battle from one of these and staying in contact with higher headquarters
  • Packed with troopers, with up to platoon-level support equipment (educated guess from the tripod laser cannon seen inside Echo Base)  
  • Armor is capable of withstanding direct hits from many high-power weapon systems 
  • Main armament is capable of devastating large structures.  
It's also fairly safe to say (again, excluding Expanded Universe sources) that this vehicle is designed as much for intimidation as it is utility.  Simply put... This vehicle has no contemporary Earth equivalent.  You won't see this archetype outside of science fiction (the Space Marine Land Raider being another example).

Very few equivalents in 15mm sci fi, at least so far.  Khurasan Miniatures' Alligator Assault Transport, in my opinion, is the perfect example of this archetype.  The Garn passengers are well protected by the shielding, and it clearly has enough firepower to level a small town!  I could also see the Khurasan Lion or the Old Crow Lancer as filling this role, but they could just as easily be in the next category...

*     *     *     *     *

So those are the extremes when it comes to future design philosophies.  Let's split the difference - combining what we know works today with what we think will best support military forces of the future.  Modern vehicles like the Stryker are starting to assume this role - keeping every soldier connected to a realtime battlefield grid.  This makes each vehicle a dedicated mini command center, rather than requiring separate "command post" variants of each APC.  Most of the technology for this is within our reach... I think we'll see vehicles following this design format in the next 15-30 years.  The most iconic example:

Again, we're going to ignore sources other than the film itself.  What we saw:
  • Transported and protected a squad  
  • Fully integrated command, control, and communications system
  • Plenty of spare room for long-term sustainment, such as food, weapons, maintenance parts, and medical supplies
  • Weaponry with a significant offensive punch
The movie script refers to it as an APC (Armored Personnel Carrier), which is fairly unbelievable to anyone with a reasonable level of military knowledge.  Even in the 80s, a vehicle with this design philosophy would have been designated as an IFV.  Using "APC" in the script really only leaves a few options.  It could have been a deliberate "update" of an old military term.  It could simply be slang or an informal definition (compare a 16th-century "handgonne" to a modern handgun for a good analogy).  Or, far more likely, it was a mix of the screenwriter's creative license and ignorance of basic military terminology.  

But this "APC" presents a unique blend of what's tried and tested in the 20th century, what we think early 21st century equivalents present (or should present), and what we think likely to come in the coming centuries.  Its design isn't simply to get troops into combat and then return to a base.  It's designed to stay with them, offer a mobile shelter/command post and increase their offensive capability.

I think these 15mm offerings fit this type of vehicle pretty well:

  • The Khurasan Caiman is the highlight of this category... I just don't personally see it firing a few shots, dropping the troops off, and being done with its mission.  However, Khurasan Miniatures does market this vehicle as a high-tech 13-man APC, not as anything more.
  • The Khurasan Atlas is another vehicle that could be seen following this design philosophy, along with the Old Crow Lancer and Critical Mass Games Kaamados transport vehicles.  Even the Critical Mass Arc Fleet transports are pretty large, and could easily serve as more than a common battle taxi.
*     *     *     *    *
Now I turn it over to you (manufacturers and sculptors - please jump in as well).  How do you like your troops to be transported?  Crammed into basic transports, neatly packed into a vehicle with some support weapons, or spaciously riding a vehicle that keeps them fully integrated with each other and their higher echelons?  What are your ideal and favorite 15mm transports?



  1. Very nice and well thought-out piece.

    Also, that Old Crow Trojan is awesome looking!

    ANNDD... It made me realize how cool that Garn APC/IFV/TANK is...

    1. I know - those Garn vehicles are great. Makes me wish I had a much larger table... they'd just look a bit silly on my 2' x 2'playing surfaces. :)

    2. user@example.com27 April 2012 at 15:02

      There's a simple solution - use it as a centre point and objective. Buy two, model one as crashed and damaged, and have the objective be to hold off the attackers until it has been repaired.

      Yes, I did just solve your problem of not having enough table space for one by suggesting that you buy two.

  2. Ok, well you asked for it. My own stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the subject:

    I am actually using QRF Ratel 20s (modern South African IFVs) for my Bwendi 2300AD force. The design suits me nicely and I have added some bits from GZG's offerings to make them look a little more sci-fi. My view is that for the background and the style of army I am producing, the transport should be sufficiently well-armoured to be able to stand with and support the infantry and it should pack enough of a punch to function as a support weapon in its own right. My version is designed with 3 crew and space for 9 passengers with their kit. There is some facility for fighting from the vehicle but the intent is to get eact section to the battlefield in one piece, deploy them to fight and then support them in that fighting. There is little need for comfort and space because the troops are not on a holiday tour. Their real job lies outside the protection offered by the IFV. I envisage special ops teams getting their own versions of these IFVs but the special ops teams will be smaller, thus permitting them to carry more kit into the combat zone.

    Further into the future, I imagine my troops being deployed from low orbit in grav IFVs. I plan to use GZG's grav IFVs for this. These will have more space per soldier because the troops may be expected to operate for longer without access to supplies, thus requiring them to carry more into the battle themselves, and the their armour may simply require the extra space, especially when we introduce power armour. They will probably also have more firepower than the earlier IFVs for much the same reason.

    Still further into the future I can imagine a situation like that described in Laserburn, where AFVs have less importance because each soldier in a suit of dreadnaught armour is an AFV unto himself. Lightweight, high power weapons combined with efficient powered armour means that each soldier is a tank. Grav belts and/or jump packs will give the troops the speed they need while the weapons packs on their armour will give them the firepower of a much larger formation of earlier troops.

    Phew! Well, that's it in brief!! :-)

    As an aside and possibly a suggestion for a future discussion, I find the designs of many futuretech vehicles to be rather strange, with numerous shot traps, flat vertical surfaces, high profile builds, etc. In the future, I imagine vehicles being much lower profile and smoother so that they can deflect lasers, etc.

    1. Regarding advances in personal armor - I've actually had that conversation with a few others. Fast troop carriers for power armored troopers could easily be open topped, because it's not really offering additional protection. It might be more important for them to be mobile recharging/restocking stations, rather than the way we view APCs today.

    2. On the other hand, vehicle armor is always going to be "cheaper" than power armor, not the least of which because it does not have squishy humans directly against it. So throwing an armored roof on the flatbed power armor transport may be a way to make sure that you going to deliver a squad of troopers and not a bunch of suits filled with goo.

    3. user@example.com27 April 2012 at 15:09

      If for whatever reason defence starts outstripping offense, and infantry armour was sufficient, I could see an argument for open-frame transports with amour limited to the bits that make it go and the bit where the crew sit. If someone shoots at it the passengers would be just as well off outside as inside.

      The Adeptus Mechanicus and Adeptus Astartes have yet to respond to my suggestion of flatbed Rhinos and Land Speeders with jungle gym-style bars underneath for transporting marines without jump packs, alas.

    4. @Lasgunpacker: I'm not convinced that vehicle armour will 'always' be cheaper than power armour. The cost of this armour will depend upon how far into the future you go, what technological advances have been made by then, what production technologies have been developed, etc. It is entirely feasible that infantry power-armour could be cheaper than vehicle armour and even that a single power-armoured trooper could carry as much firepower as a tank at some point. Defence versus offence is a cycle and has been throughout history. Defences become too difficult for the offensive technology to penetrate so new offensive technologies are developed. The focus shifts to defensive technologies when offensive technologies outstrip them. I suspect that this will always be the case too.

    5. I seem to recall Wolf's Dragoons in the BattleTech novel "Wolf Pack" using zoomers which were little more than fast GEV sleds with a metal framework for Elementals to cling to. Easy to close quickly with the enemy and deploy rapidly using built in armour jump packs (no need to slow down to open hatches!).

  3. I like what you are saying but I think the APC/AFV is getting to the end of it's useful life.

    Since the advent of armour, whoever has the technical advantage wins. The were only two counters to that. The first was British tanks during WW1 when the tech was poor and Germany during WW2 who lost out to quantity rather than quality. Being in an armoured vehicle where the enemy has air superiority is akin to painting a target on your back. Vehicles already have sensors to tell you where fire is coming from. Dumb mines and IEDs kill more people that bullets do in recent conflicts. There is a reason why we use transport helicopters more than APCs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I see two possible futures. Very fast (probably grav powered) vehicles that can get out of the way quickly. The sort of thing found at the end of the Forever War. Alternatively powered armoured that does away with the need for APC/AFVs as in Starship Troopers and the Forever War. I kind of discount the anti-infantry techniques used in the likes of hammer's slammers as there are ways around this even now. These sort of tanks would be prohitably expensive.

    1. That's a pretty sensible way to look at it... and could easily end up being true in the future. Although if some new technology is developed for detecting and remote-detonating IEDs and landmines, land vehicles may return to usefulness simply because they are cheaper than aircraft.

      I actually view power armor as something that will add a new aspect to warfare, rather than replacing existing roles. Military entities, if nothing else, are very reluctant to change. :)

    2. I thought about IEDs when i was writing my response. They are an example of how the arms race works. At the moment we are playing rock paper scissors. In ten years time we will be playing rock paper scissors lizard spock, metaphorically speaking.

      The cost of lives in the first world outweighs the cost of vehicles and vice versa in the third world I think. The British have moved from snatch landrovers to more protected vehicles.

      The military mind has proven to be slow over the years. It always seems to be fighting the last war. APCs, like cavalry would eventually die when their useful life ends.

      I could even forsee a resurgence of very low tech solutions.

    3. If you ever pick up John Ringo's series on the 'Posleen War', the first few books incorporate a plot where the military entities are Very resistant to change, despite the invention of armored combat suits. The main character describes ACS units as a blend of shock infantry, cavalry, and football plays. Nothing like it exists in modern military and would revolutionize tactics as we know them

  4. I dont know anybody who calls GZG "too small". Saying they are "frequently" called small, says who? I think you made that up. ask any thousands with GZG infantry if the GZG vehicles are too small and they will laugh at you.

    What we saw:
    Transported and protected a squad
    Fully integrated command, control, and communications system
    Plenty of spare room for long-term sustainment, such as food, weapons, maintenance parts, and medical supplies
    Weaponry with a significant offensive punch

    You forgot:

    cant get over speed bump in road.
    cant cross muddy field
    needs runway to turn around

    worst design ever if you think about it.

    1. Very true, and I've corrected that to "occasionally." Sometimes a very vocal minority can seem like a majority.

      As far as that particular vehicle... at just under 5m wide, it also isn't terribly useful on improved road surfaces. Unless a single traffic lane is much wider in the future. :)

  5. Let's see, it took me an entire two seconds to find this example.

  6. Real can of worms...

    Re size: here's a couple of interesting articles:

    To that i'd like to add check the size of the M1117 and ask yourself how many ppl you think should fit in it then check it's spec's.

    With regards to the roles of different vehicles, well that all depends on the terrain, logistics and budget of the theatre and the length of the war etc... look at the hmmwv its an upgrade utility vehicle no good for its current role and being phased out for better vehicles but expediency means it'll stay in operation for several years yet.

    Why do so many modern vehicles favour wheels instead of tracks, why have artillery on a modified truck chasis in stead of selfpropelled track chassis, because its cheaper to run,maintain and replace.

    The cycle between armour and penertration is constant and always evolving it just a case of where you are on the cycle infantry antitank, anti infanty armour, anti armour armour,anti infantry infantry round and round it goes, and thats before close support artillery, air support, orbital support etc

    Mecha, battle suits, power armour all well and good but do the games then reflect the need for logistics, support and maintenance of these will the battle revolve around a giant carrier similar to the old Heavy Gear games.(PC) Or does everything simply get dropped off by a landing pod, grav lifter?

    But that's another issue, to what extent are we trying to reflect/represent on the battlefield/gaming table. If the miniatures are representative does it really matter what size,shape, look, 'real' role they fulfil so long as the game works and the players have fun?!

  7. I think that things like the MRAP show that the APC is alive and well, just changing form a bit. Being able to carry a squad or section about quickly and cheaply, while still providing cover from less-than-anti-tank weapons is a key ability that no army is going to pass up. I would expect that something like the Stryker is going to be the new APC, possibly with a larger array of anti-personnel weapons.

    IFVs on the other hand are going to be phased out; too expensive, and too vulnerable to real tanks and anti-tank weapons, at too high a cost in both money and space. Throwing a large auto-cannon, missile launcher, and other weapons onto an APC does not make it a tank. I would expect that these become specialist vehicles in the future, either as platoon fire support, or just for scouting.

    Helos and other air transport are well and good, but AI fired guns, drones, and cheap manpads are going to make them obsolete for frontline combat. We only see so many of them in asymetrical warfare. Fighting a peer force, they are just expensive targets.

  8. Mine resistant armoured trucks are popular at the moment because of the nature of the current conflicts.
    But how to transport?
    For sci fi isn't the logistic problem how many fit into a dropship or do you use locally built simpler vehicles?
    Maintainence and spares over light year distances will be an issue as to the deployment of high tech,high maintainence kit.
    As to size is it going to be fewer boots on the ground with more from less?

  9. "But how to transport?
    For sci fi isn't the logistic problem how many fit into a dropship or do you use locally built simpler vehicles?"

    So they can travel across the stars, but they still have the same lift issues we do? It's funny how we are so ready to think large in some aspects of gaming, and think small just seconds later.

    1. There's plenty of ways you can play that off within your own universe. The interstellar ships might be borne in space, travel from system to system with ease, but be unable to land on their own. You still have to use the dropships/shuttles to get things to and from the surface.

      Since the way governments buy military hardware isn't likely to improve, I can see the issue. Sure, the interstellar hauler can get entire armored divisions from A to B. No problem there. And we have this great design for wonderful new fighting vehicles - offering tons of protection and firewpoer. But the government just bought hundreds of X-500 Drop Shuttles, which are limited on ramp width! They aren't going to replace their X-500s, so they still have to make sure the mew fighting vehicles can fit inside them.

      Every logistics system has a bottleneck. Most of the time, the bottle neck is caused by human error. :)

    2. The problem is getting troops from one planet to another. This requires a high intensity of effort. Modern forces are already reducing in size. I suspect that in the future units are going to get smaller, better trained and equipped with the best kit money can get.

  10. I only have 2 GZG grav vehicles (the high tech ones) so any comments regarding size only apply to those examples. From photos I've seen of the other vehicles, it probably doesn't apply to the range in general.

    Measuring from top to bottom of the hull is 12-13mm, which equates to just over 4 foot. Allowing for armour, ducting, power conduits for the grav plates etc, call it 3 to 3.5 foot internal height. The only way troops could be carried is if they are lying flat on inclined benches which would make exiting the vehicle through the top or rear hatches rather difficult.

    Alternatively, the troops would have to be seated facing out towards the sides, backsides directly on the bottom armour (thank goodness it's grav - or they'd get bruised by all the bumping!)with their legs bent up at the knee, feet above hip level. Again, not a particularly good position for easy exit from the vehicle.

    All that being said, they do look damned good and I wouldn't let "realism" stop me from using them.

  11. Early Russian IFV's and APC were notorious for requiring short crewman - at one stage you couldn't be in a Motorised Rifle Division if you were over 155cm tall.

    There is also an additional category of troop transport - one that carries no troops but allows them to get into position. For this I'm thinking of things like the Necron Monolith that (I'm told) lets you teleport troops out of it, or the Wraith Darts from Stargate Atlantis that could teleport troops down whilst doing a gun run. Why carry them at all when you can just open up a handy wormhole and step through.

  12. Let me first point out that I am not a military man, though I have ridden around in a few APC's at shows and things. Yes they do generally tend to be smaller than we imagine. Personally I would realistically imagine the vehicles having a lower profile or some new camouflage method making it harder to spot.

    But with making models for a sci-fi crowd people tend to use their imagination and they create these behemoths that are called APC's/IFV's that in reality would be smaller. I personally disliked the GZG light tanks, they felt small for what I wanted. They are lovely models and I will use them for another army, but speaking as someone who started as a 40k gamer I love the idea of larger APC's especially with the army I am creating for Gruntz. It allows me to create the back story that the IFV's carry supplies for the team and all the counter measures needed to protect it. As a gamer there are different manufacturers out there so if one company doesn't make the models you want you will find one that meets your requirements. It's more about what you want and what you will use more than anything else.

    I don't know how the military is going to go in the future but I doubt it will go the route of using one particular type or allow gunships to go obsolete. I believe in the future militaries will still retain the same basic combined arms approach that our armies use today. Gunships, mechs, ifv/apc, tanks, drones, infantry (armoured or otherwise) will work together in the battlefield and for every new threat or tactic a new counter measure will be introduced.

  13. This is a very good article which I greatly enjoyed reading and all the comments too.

    I would just add that cost is always the issue and troops need to get to the battlefield. So a small expensive force will have armour or such that gets them to the fight while the cheaper mass of troops will sit in the 'tin can' and be trundled in.

    Now we need a discussion on the future of infantry and support weaponry and we can tie it into one.

    Gavin Syme.

    1. Hmm, that's a good point, Gavin. Now would you like one can of worms or two? :-)

      The future of infantry could well be directly related to increases in the use of drones and, further into the future, decreases in the cost of intelligent robots. If the cost of producing a combat robot/drone becomes cheaper than the cost of training and equipping an infantryman then the discussion about APCs and IFVs could become moot, because there is no need to transport squishy people to the battlefield. Instead you just drop your tin cans into the combat area and set them to work.

  14. I think a lot of people are missing a great opportunity, or i'd say, to a degree, even the point here.

    Human conflict, or indeed any conflict in the future, and the past, is not about reducing or being rid of a specific item within the armed inventory. APCs will never die out, just as the Horse has never become utterly useless as a means of transport; they are still used today, and will be used for hundreds, if not thousands of years to come. War is not black and white, or X, Y and Z. Having studied Human conflict for three years now (don't want to biggy it up, but this is what I have discovered) War is about extending your ability, not replacing per say.

    We are, after all, in an age, that as far as we can tell, for a very long time, will be all about Combined Arms Warfare. Every army will be faced with various situations, and thus, needs equipment to suit each and every situation involved. It will never diminish, or be rid of any part of a capability completely because it may cost them big in the future. The Wheeled IFV for instance, is a great piece of kit; excellent for rapid deployment, quick in and out situations, it can even be fitted with weaponry that can handle most third world armies, which for now has reduced the requirement for Tanks, or Tracked IFVs, or APCs. But only because it suits the current need. The Wheeled IFV is weak armour wise, and its expensive, thus harder to replace, nor are wheels as good as tracks for certain terrain. In a long term conventional war, you will want those cheap APCs more than you want a expensive IFV. You will want to get more of your boys to the field, and it could well be that a group of IFVs will only make a minor difference in firepower.

    So, here is how I see it. I have numerous forces, for numerous situations, my armies are practically composed of almost anything, and everything you could imagine. Its not all going to be on the tabletop at anyone time, merely, I have all the options available.

    One Force, say a Drop Force, will consist almost entirely of Grav Tanks; ejected from low flying drop ships, they are quickly deployed, and will get straight into the action. The lightly armoured troops, will all have Grav IFVs. Drop forces, after all may be small, and its infantry lightly armoured, thus require heavily armed vehicles to make up for its lack in fire power. An APC just doesn't fit that situation, you don't simply want protection for the guys on their way there, or whilst they are there, you want firepower to.

    A Marine strike force will be armed with Hover vehicles: Again a rapid assault force that would glide across the waters the first wave would ideally be IFVs; again to increase the firepower of the attacking force, but if it was to be a large force, the follow up would involve APCs, which would simply give adequate protection to troops moving up onto the beaches into support. It is possible afterwards more conventional vehicles would be brought up via transports, such as tracked or wheeled IFVs/APCs, in order to combat different terrain after the beach assault.

    The point i'm trying to make though is, don't disregard things, yes its Science fiction, but no one in the future, in his right mind is going to start cutting chunks out of his army, regardless of the reason. You might want firepower, you might want the workhorse APC, you might want a machine that gives both firepower and room, and can sustain its troops for a long time. You might want all of them at once, but different things will be used for different situations, or all of them out of sheer desperation.

    Lets be honest, when wars get really tough, when supplies aren't getting to the men, or your tech starts to degrade, no matter how great it was in the first place, you may as well just pick up a mace to take someone out, because things will eventually degrade into a medieval bloodbath anyway.

    1. I don't think people are missing the point so much as failing to define their frame of reference. Are they referring to near future situations? Far future? We are talking about the future here and there is potentially an awful lot of that ahead of us. This gives huge opportunities for technological change and the concomitant changes to the way that warfare is waged. As I mentioned in a previous comment, it is entirely possible that in the far future a small number of humans will be holed up in bunkers conducting the war through robots, because the technology is available to avoid the waste of human life at the front line. Alternatively, what about Traveller's idea for battlefield nukes? How would that affect the way that troops are deployed?

      Your argument holds up well, for the most part, for near future wars, but what about when grav tech is the norm for everybody? If you have sufficient access to grav vehicles that you can afford to equip troops with them, I doubt any of your strike forces would have hover, wheeled or tracked vehicles, which would be less efficient and less flexible than the grav vehicles. While I accept that argument that armies require a range of vehicles to fulfil all the tasks needed, you also need to consider how those vehicles are supplied and repaired. Greater homogenisation of vehicles means fewer different spares need to be carried and techs need to be familiar with fewer systems to repair them. Therefore the cost-effective method is to limit the number of different types of vehicles in your armed forces. Of course, as you say, things break down and you can end up improvising, possibly even taking the local taxi to the battlefront, but that is not a part of the military design process when deciding what is needed from an APC/IFV.

      In game terms and in the end, the gamer is free to field what they feel like anyway, and nobody is wrong per se (by the way, it's 'per se' not 'per say'. Gives me conniptions every time I see 'per say'. :-) ). In real life, we may be able to predict short term trends, but the weight of human experience shows that we do not have the imagination to really predict how things will turn out 1000 years down the line.

    2. Of course it assumes that the current trend does not continue. While the wars against Iraq or Kosovo weren't precisely "fair", they did pretty much show that you can incapacitate a country's ability to fight without prolonged campaign. If that's all you want instead of occupation, a "conventional" war would be probably decided in days, weeks at most unless some sort of new, 100% effective antiair/antimissile defense is put into production.

  15. Good points, but what I'm arguing is rather people restrict themselves to a narrow scope. We can predict what sorts of wars we're going to be fighting for a very long time, since afterall, the basic forms of conflict, that we are fighting today for instance, has been around since human civilisation came to be. Its unlikely to change regardless of technology.

    But, say for instance your example of guys in bunkers controlling robots, well, thats already happening. But no matter how awesome we make bots, they could never replace the living breathing soldier, they would be an extension of. Some situations may revolve around using just robots; whereas other situations revolve around living troops, and others a bit of both. It would never be just a particular thing. Of course, everyones free to simply use whatever, and do whatever they like, but whilst we're on a debate here on a general basis, I think its worth pointing it out.

    The general point of my argument is simply, there is no need to simply restrict yourself, because of an idea. Use everything and anything. Some of my human armies operate on different levels, the extremely advanced (depending on their situation) mostly use grav/hover, others use a mix, like I intend my U.S Army force to revolve around wheeled/tracked vehicles (on the basis, these vehicles are cheaper to fuel and can hang around the battlefield for a lot longer, even entrench themselves), but the Marines use Grav/hover vehicles, and the uber elite types, or troop forces that sepcialise in long-term missions, without the logistical support of the overall armed forces may rely on say a Caiman like vehicle i.e self-sufficiency.
    Some of armies, that would be larger, but poorer, would almost utterly rely on tracked/wheeled vehicles that are battle proven. Some communities/armies that live out on the frontiers may even use tech that is hundreds of years old.

    I actually think, that if we're talking about, wars in say, fought across the galaxy here, given the logistics, the vastness etc, maybe technology would simply just be all over the place, there may be a basic level of tech, with some armies with higher levels of tech (up to the extremes) the variety would be HUGE.

    But thats my point, go crazy, theres nothing that says we won't be using similar things to what we have now, thousands of years into the future. No need to be specific, no need to restrict it.

    1. Yes, people restrict themselves to what they can imagine is feasible, which generally means near future solutions in any hard scifi world. It makes sense in a way, because we cannot predict the medium to long term accurately (I want my flying car now! They told me they would be around by now). In fact, it is hard enough reconstructing the past with what we know was around, so how can we adequately predict the future, when cognitive shifts will mean changes in people's attitudes and approaches to problems?

      I agree completely that technology could be all over the place, depending upon where you are. You only need to look at the range of technologies across our planet at the moment. There are people living stone age existences while others have the latest gadgetry. If the facilities are not there to repair your plasma rifle then it is just a fancy club once it breaks down, if you are on a planet that has no plasma rifle industrial basis. So, yes, go wild with what you use.

      The fuel argument is an interesting one too. In my future world, there are functional fusion drives that require maintenance but little fuel. This means that once worlds can produce fusion drives they have vehicles that have massive range. If they also have plasma cannon that draw on those fuel cells then they need neither refuelling nor rearming for the duration of most battles. They just need maintenance and repair when they get damaged. I wonder how the logistics arm would be affected by this technology.

      Regarding the robot idea: at the moment and into the foreseeable future, robots will not replace people. Beyond that, well, who knows? I can imagine them replacing people for many roles at some point and the intelligent machine is a staple of science fiction too, so why not have armies of the things. If they are cheap enough to produce, you can have bazillions of the things, and they are quicker to train than people because they only require programming. "I can do kung fu!" I bet there are scientists working on the problem at the moment, and, like the infinite number of monkeys, it is highly likely that some kind of breakthrough will be made along the way.

      Anyway, I have a tendency to run off at the keyboard so I had better stop hogging the bandwidth here. I totally agree that you can go hog wild and field whatever you wish in your games. If you can imagine it, then there is no reason why you cannot feature it in your games. Who knows? You might even have predicted the future!

  16. These dicussions are what makes this such a great site! Long may they continue!