Friday, July 14, 2017

More #5681 Paratrooper Conversions


The troops I painted previously in the “chocolate chip” camouflage illustrate just how creative one can be with this set of figures. They were cast from the Rapaport /Castings / REB mold # 5681 “Air Commandos.”  My intention with this set was to paint them in the style of Vietnam-era US soldiers.

The trick to painting these figures is simple. Their uniforms and field gear are almost generic, insofar as soldiers from the 1940s to recent years. They wear a jacket similar in cut to a field jacket or tunic. Their boots are meant to be the British type worn with a cuff-like legging. These can easily be painted as a one-piece combat boot. The belts and shoulder straps are cut like many used by US, UK, German, and other armies. The most that might be necessary is a little filing on the back of the man with rifle and bayonet. Using thick paint can simulate a Y or H harness. Ther ammo pouches are of the British type. Scoring two grooves on each would make them similar to the German ammo pouch for the submachine gun. One can also file them shorter to resemble the ammo pouches used by the US Army from 1957 to the present.

Then again, one might not bother filing the pouches and still get a fine finished product.
One trick to develop is filing a bowl or M1 Hadfield helmet into other types. With many homecast GIs, it is possible to carefully file the helmet to resemble a stalhelm. One can also file them to replicate a Fallschirmjager helmet. For longer barrels on firearms, wire brads or very small finishing nails can be used. At this size, the head of a finishing nail looks like a flash suppressor.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Homecast Soldiers: A Little Paint Makes All the Difference



When I got back into homecasting back `05, I acquired molds in bits and pieces. My first acquisition were Guardsmen mods from a friend. The molds included Castings / REB and Prince August Molds. Soon after, I added other molds., One of the first was the old Rapaport /Castings / REB mold # 5681 “Air commandos.” The mold makes copies of the Lone Star / Harvey British paratroopers. These are an advancing rifleman with the British Bullpup rifle, a man with a submachine gun and an officer with pistol. The figures wear the familiar Dennison smock and British field gear with the long ammo pouches.

I cast a lot of figures from that mold. And I got creative. The uniform is like many of the era: field jacket, combat books, basic helmet and webbed gear. The faces are crude, but the figures have good, animated poses. The profile did not look much different from American troops circa 1944 - 1980. I tried painting the solders n various different schemes and they all looked great. A little filing of the helmet led to another type: fallschirmjager. A little effort makes a plausible set of German paratroopers for toy soldier gaming.

Let us be clear at this point. These are toy figures. They were never meant to be accurate military miniatures. The same can be said of our paint and file conversions. They look good enough, but are not accurate models of US troops or German paratroopers. The figures are passable. The advantage is that this mold can churn out small armies for games like OMOG Advanced.

The set illustrated here is my latest. They are painted to imitate the “chocolate chip” camouflage issued during Desert Storm. As I had already primed the figures before deciding on a color scheme, I was not able to file the helmet to resemble the modern US army helmet.

Here are links to some of the other soldiers I have made with this mold, a little paint and sometimes a little filing:

http://www.thortrains.net/toysoldierart/colors2.htm

http://www.thortrains.net/toysoldierart/colors3.htm

http://www.thortrains.net/toysoldierart/colors4.htm

http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/newpic04/hcww2pomair.htm




Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: Tim Mee Cyan Blue and Rust Brown soldiers



Back in the late 60s and early 70s, Tim Mee cast some of their “M16" soldiers in neon colors. There was neon pink, neon blue, neon yellow, neon green. I never understood why. By the time those soldiers came out, I was already into the smaller scale Airfix wargame figures, Tamiya kits and metal military miniatures.

Recently, Jeff Imel of Victorybuy has had these Tim Mee soldiers reissued. The first set was issued in green and tan. Since then, he has them done in grey, black, a dark blue, light green, dark green, red and yellow.  The latest sets are done in rust brown and cyan blue. In fact, the Blue ones are also included in the latest recast of the Tim Mee C130 gunship. I guess they are supposed to be Air Force guys.

I like the Tim Mee M16 guys. They are well-sculpted in action poses, are realistic enough, and have a good assortment of weapons and equipment. When I worked out the game of OMOG Advanced, they were one of the toy soldier sets I used as a reference. In fact, I worked to accommodate everything from a World War II era rifle squad to a modern one and anything in between. The Tim Mee M16 guys had a few things that made them ideal for this. Along with the set of poses and weapons, they are also the most common set of army men.  The Tim Mee figures have been cast, recast, reproduced, copied and cloned for almost 50 years. Figures from original molds are available, as are copies and clones from China and elsewhere. One figure has disappeared from the set: the marching guy. And the guy who used to be throwing a grenade is now waving the men onward. No problem. There is an officer with pistol, mortar man with crude 60mm mortar, flamethrower man, bazooka man (3.5" rocket launcher), radioman, minesweeper man, a light machine gunner and five riflemen. For OMOG, a squad can have its officer, riflemen, squad machine gun and choice of heavy weapons.


But Cyan? Rust? Or for that matter, Red, Yellow, Orange?

For toy soldier games, the different colors are useful. Camouflage is not a matter on small tabletop games, as both players can see each others troops. Different colors allows for different sides. A game with four armies on the table is easier to play if figures are distinguished by their color. That is, for people who are not going to paint their soldiers. Paint? All one needs do is get a bag and open them.

One could use the cyan troops as air force or a naval landing party. Dark blue sets could be SWAT teams.


The Tim Mee M16 guys are a great set for toy soldier games. You can easily put together a rifle squad plus supporting elements of your choice: mortar team, antitank squad, engineer section (flamethrower and minesweeper). The only missing thing from those times is a grenade launcher, either the old M79 or later M203 over-and-under. No problem, Either use one of the other poses as the grenade launcher or borrow the tear gas launcher man from the Tim Mee SWAT team / tactical troops.

As for collectors, Tim Mee reissues have sweetened the pot with a variety of different colors and reissues. Collect them all!


Here’s some toy soldier history for you:

Back in 1998, my friend’s nephew had some of the Tim Mee M16 guys. He called them “old-fashioned soldiers.” To my friend and I, they were modern troops. They are pretty much how we looked when we were in the Army.  Being called “old-fashioned”was a shock, but it was true. We looked very different from our counterparts in the 90s and beyond. That was what led to my making the Army Men Homepage. It started as a joke. And it evolved into a service for the toy soldier hobby.
Tim Mee soldier with experimental machine-gun

There are anomalies in the Tim Mee set. More common infantry antitank weapons of the time
were the M72 LAW and the 89mm Recoilless Rifle. Then there is that machine gun. The actual squad machine gun of the time was the M60, a belt-fed model based on the German MG42. The Tim Mee machine gun was an experimental type that the Army was considering for Jungle warfare. It looked like a contender, but was eventually rejected. Tim Mee jumped the gun on this one. Much the same happened to Herald, Timpo, Crescent and Lone Star of Britain when the British Army was considering a bullpup weapon in the 1950s. it looked like a sure thing, so the toymakers used it for their toy soldiers. They wanted to be modern and “state o the art.”  Unfortunately, the bullpup was rejected because of NATO compatibility issues. Too late! The molds were already made and the bullpup had remained ever since.
Herald Brand British Soldiers with "Bullpup" rifle

You can buy the Cyan Blue and Rust soldiers here:

https://www.amazon.com/TimMee-PLASTIC-ARMY-MEN-Soldier/dp/B01N6JJB5T/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1493398190&sr=8-8&keywords=victorybuy+blue


You can download OMOG Advanced Skirmish Game Runes here:

http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/OMOG-advanced-game-2015.pdf

http://www.thortrains.net/downloads/OMOG-advanced-game-2015.pdf

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review: BMC "Combat Soldiers 40 pieces 1950s plastic army men figures."

In case you did not know, Jeff Imel, who is behind the reissues of Tim Mee products, bought BMC. Work is currently in process to reissue some of the BMC classics. In the meantime, Jeff has reissued one of the cornerstones of plastic toy soldier collecting.

The Combat Soldiers are the old Lido American troops, cast from original molds. Even better, the molds have been restored. The current run of figures do not have the flash that some of the Tootsietoy reissues had. They are crisply molded, just like they were back in the old days. This set has ten different poses of World War II era American infantrymen.

We used to call these soldiers “flat foots”. Instead of having a base, their feet were flat enough to stand on a smooth surface. And for all the collectors’ talk of Marx figures, these flat-foots were the most common army men. They were in toy shops, general stores, and anywhere else small toys were sold. We had bushels of them! The only toy soldier set that has been more prolific is the Tim Mee M16 soldiers, which have been produced, copies and clones in greater abundance than any other plastic soldier. Even then, the Lido figures were more common well into the 1970s and had been reissued a few times since..

Plastic soldier collectors who want a good representative set of the Lido flat-foots would do well to acquire the BMC reissues. And with originals selling at a dollar apiece or more, the BMC recasts are a bargain.

One of the anomalies of this set is the four of the figures are identical to those in the old Marx 60mm infantry set. The main difference is that the Lido helmets have simulated netting molded on them while the Marx ones are plain. Apparently, both companies used the same sculptor.

The person who designed the flat-foots was on to something. As kids, we loved them. We could fit them in toy trucks and tanks, for instance. W could easily place them in the little foxholes were dug for them in the dirt. And for casualties, we just knocked them over. The Lido soldiers were perfect for indoors and outdoors.

As for Marx, I need to clarify things here. Marx was sold mainly in  toy stores and catalog sales (Sears, Monkey Wards, etc.). It was only later in the 60s that they appeared in some 5&10 stores like Kresges. Marx cost more. Lido and Tim Mee soldiers could be anywhere. They would be in general stores, corner candy stores, groceries and similar places. They were ubiquitous. Add that fact that many of our parents were Depression babies and looked for the cheapest things they could get. Bags of Lido, Tim Mee and Payton army men were cheap. In those days, a bag might cost anywhere from 19 cents to 29 cents. Two boys could pool their allowance, buy a bag an then “divvy them up.”  And we could get them tight in the neighborhood.  The nearest candy store or corner grocery was never more than two blocks away.

(Back then, corner stores often carried a few small toys and other things. Today we call them ‘impulse buys.”)

The Lido figure and the Tim Mee World War II soldiers had some great poses. The thing about Lido’s flat-foots was that the individual figures also had character. Along with dynamic poses. they had faces that were distinct. For instance, the officer waving his pistol looked like he was talking our the side of his mouth. (I tried that and got in trouble.) The bayonet guy looks like he is about to give a Japanese a dose of bayonet therapy. And the fellow with rifle overhead might be about to smash a latter day Hessian with a rifle butt, or cross a creek.

The BMC reissued Lido soldiers are a great asset for the plastic soldier collector. They look like they did 60+ years ago thanks to the restored mold. It is a good set to have. Likewise, those who enjoy painting toy soldiers can have a lot of fun with these guys. They are army men with character. Lido army men are essential to anyone who considers himself a collector of plastic soldiers

For more info about the original Lido soldiers, check here from the Army Men Homepage:

http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/lidogi1.html
You can order the BMC reissued flat-foot army men here:

https://www.amazon.com/BMC-Classic-Green-PLASTIC-ARMY/dp/B01NCV7H7G/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1493386181&sr=8-4&keywords=victorybuy


Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: Tim Mee M41 Walker Bulldog Tank and Tactical Troops

The reissued Tim Mee Walker Bulldog tank with troops is BIG. The body is 10.5 inches long by 6.5 inches wide.  With barrel, the length is 14.5 inches. For a plastic toy tank, it is a very good representation of the M41 Light tank. Open the turret and there’s the commander. And the engine compartment opens. For kids, it’s a good place to stash army men.

Back in the early 1960s, a popular toy was a battery-operated “Walker Bulldog” tank that  moved and fired plastic toy bullets. It was big, as toys go. The toy was made by Remco. The toy was only marginally like the tank for which it was named.

The Tim Mee M41 looks very much like the real thing ,through it is neither battery operated, nor does it shoot.

I estimate the scale as between 1/18 and 1/20.

Back in the 1990s, this same tank was advertised as an M60. Any resemblance to the M60 series of US tanks is tenuous, at best. Those who know US armor can see that it is the venerable M41.

Tim Mee packed in a dozen figures. These are the 60mm sized Tim Mee SWAT team cast in olive drab plastic. They are described as “tactical troops.” I find that intriguing, as the predecessor to SWAT police were the “tactical units.” And if you look at these figures closely, you get a blast from the past. The helmets are the older tactical helmets which look like motorcycle headgear. Three figures are carrying pistols. These are revolvers. Police preferred revolvers because they were less prone to jamming than automatics. That changed in the 1980s.

Two officers have billy clubs on their belts. One man holds a riot shotgun, one a sniper rifle and the other a tear gas grenade launcher. These are unique figures and they are very accurately detailed for the time they were originally sculpted. For the plastic toy soldier collector, the tactical troops are worthy additions to your collection. They are unusual, unique, and accurately reflect tactical officers in the late 70s - early 80s.

BTW - six of these tactical troops were included in the Tim Mee black helicopter Strike Force a couple years ago. They were molded in black plastic. Indeed, one of the things that the early SWAT cops brought to the table were helicopters, used for both observation and to insert teams.

Frankly, the Tim Mee M41 tank is too big for tabletop wargaming. On the other hand, it is a great toy for both indoor and outdoor play. Large, sturdy and attractive, the Walker Bulldog can provide kids with the centerpiece of many a sandbox battle. It is big, it looks good - and realistic - and it is made well. I’ll keep this around to entertain small visitors. This is one toy they can play with in the backyard.


By the way, I have been told that the small 3.5 inch G.I. Joes and similar sized figures are a perfect for this excellent tank!

Here is a link to buy one for yourself:

https://www.amazon.com/Tim-Mee-Walker-Bulldog-Playset/dp/B01N9QR2Z7/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1493386181&sr=8-15&keywords=victorybuy

Sunday, April 23, 2017

OMOK Fantasy Supplement

People have asked if I might make a fantasy supplement for OMOK (One Man, One Knight). As this is a man-to-man skirmish game, too many fantastic elements would make it another thing entirely. I am familiar with some fantasy games, though I am not a fantasy gamer  myself. I still have my old copy of Gary Gygaz’s Chainmail” with its fantasy supplement, and Fantasy Games Unlimited’s Royal Armies of the Hyborian Age. A couple of versions of the Wargames Research group’s ancient rules from the early 70s also have a fantasy supplement. Granted that the supplements for all three were meant for mass battles.

On the other extreme were the old Metagaming Rules called Melee, Wizard and their advanced versions. They started as simple man-to-man combat games and evolved into a full Fantasy series. OMOK is a game for a squad-sized unit, ideally of 10 to 15 men. The Metagaming Rules offer a few ideas, but have their limits for OMOK.

The addition of magick is another problem, because it can change the whole game from a squad-sized battle to a magical contest. For a skirmish, the only spell lthat might be useful is to hide troops such as imps and halflings.

Listed below are some ideas I had. Nothing is written in stone. This is mostly a game of combat. Perhaps in the future I will be able to come up with a genuine fantasy supplement that keeps the spirit of OMOK without becoming another piece of nerdware.


OMOK Fantasy Supplement

These are my notes:

As this is a skirmish game, the focus will be on small units of 8 to 20 figures per side. The reason for the disparity with OMOK’s 10 to 15 figures is a matter of the size of fantastic critters. For a balanced game, one might need fewer large characters such as Ogres and more small ones like Halflings and Goblins. This is a combat game on a very small man-to-man scale. There is little room for magickal elements and for larger, more dangerous critters such as dragons, tree-men and thurses.
In our fantasy world, the species of sentient beings are split according in two. Subspecies of one type are humans, dwarves and halflings. Subspecies of the other are ogres, trolls, goblins, imps and orques. Elves are of a different order entirely.


Ogres / Trolls : larger beings of a savage nature. Ogres tend to be hard to control. Trolls are a bit less unruly, and may have a magickal element to them.

Dvaergs, Dwarves: small, strong people who are skilled miners and smiths. They prefer to live underground. Whie they have the strength of man-sized beings, they are not as fast.

Goblins: Think of the green version of dwarves. Goblins tend to dislike bright sunlight. They prefer woods and the shade of towns.

Elves: lithe beings renowned for archery. These are smaller than men and wear light or no armor.

Halflings: like Hobbits, very small people who are good at hiding. Halflings fare poorly in close combat against larger beings. However, they can throw stones with the impact and accuracy of a short bow.

Imps: think of green halflings. who hate bright sunlight. Imps do not have the halfling stone-throwing ability. They are good archers and get a +1 when shooting at enemies who are smaller than man-sized.

Orques: man-sized beings, strong but not bright. Hard to command because they tend to act on their whims.


I imagine ogres as being big and nasty. They operate in twos and threes, motivated mostly by instinct and emotion. These are not logical beings. Ogres will attack the nearest enemy unit provided they have an advantage. They are smart enough to know when to avoid a fight. When overwhelmed, they will rout and run through anyone in their path.
When fighting ogres, the Rule of 3 becomes the rule of 4 for man-sized combatants and the Rule of 5 for halflings, goblins and elves.

Dvaergs work well on hills and in woods. They are strictly hand-to-hand fighters. As such, they get +1 when defending a hill or woods. They move slower than humans, deduct 1 from their movement in towns, on open ground and on roads.

Goblins do well on hills and in woods. They do not like direct sunlight. If they are in the open for more than three turns and are not engaged in combat with an enemy unit, they roll a die for control. 1, 2 and 3 means they move to the nearest shade: woods, a town or a hill. An officer with the goblins adds 1 to that roll. Of course, this does not apply on an overcast day. Unlike dvaergs, goblins can have archers and slingers firing the short bow.


Elves are like nature spirits. The are lithe and agile. Archery is their milieu. They move quickly and shoot well. Elvers are especially mobile in their own element. On the other end, they are less capable of sustaining damage in close combat. they fight man-sized opponents at -1. Against men, the Rule of 3 becomes a rule of 4.

Halflings are not usually involved in combat. For them to be present on a battlefield, there must be a special reason, such as having their homes in the line of combat. These small people move slow and are at a -2 in close combat. However, they throw stones as if firing a short bow. Halflings can hide easily, so they could launch an ambush and be a nuisance to regular units. Against men, , the Rule of 3 becomes a Rule of 5

Imps are nuisance critters attached to part of the landscape. They are more prone to mischief than actual fighting. Imps will harass anyone on either side who enters their land feature. They fight man-sized beings at -2 and cannot use missile weapons. Against men, , the Rule of 3 becomes a Rule of 5

Elves can also be nuisance creatures. They might be attached to a wood, pond, swamp or hill. Any unit passing through an elven place has to get safe passage. You need a 4, 5 or 6 to get past the elves unscathed.  An elven unit can add 1 to the die roll.  1, 2 and 3 means you have to fight the elves until you get beyond their place.

Officers with the unruly and the unpredictable nature of some species, an officer is essential.  He is there to ensure obedience through inspired leadership or fear. When guiding ogres, orques and goblins, it helps to have a leader who is bigger ane meaner than they are. A troll is a suitable officer for orgres. A ferocious human can handle orques to a point.


****

Years ago, I was an avid reader of the stories of Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard, and additions by L. Sprague DeCamp and others. I was already familiar with Norse and German folkore as well as some of the Irish folktales along the same lines. The Conan stories had a more realistic feel than  Tolkein’s stories. Fanatsy & Science Fiction was a great magazine then, and often included a couple of high-end fantasy tales. One of the most entertaining books I had read was ‘Three Hearts and Three Lions” by Poul Anderson. For instance, the book’s telling of a run-in with a troll is some of the best fantasy I have read. Also, the lead character is a Dane who thinks and acts very much like a modern Scandinavian. Seeing a 20th Century Northman encounter a medieval fantasy realm is itself a funny thing.

There are many fantasy figures out there and they exceed the quality of what was available in the 1970s. Back then, I painted up a batch just for the fun of it. And it was fun. A cyclops in a leopard skin, some lizardly fellows, a werewolf, trolls and the like were a departure from historical figures. A person could easily make several fantasy units for OMOK.

I may continue with the project, or I may let it lie for a while. That remains to be seen. I am still working on a Sci-fi supplement to OMOG and a Samurai supplement to OMOK.

For your convenience, here is a link to the OMOK medieval skirmish game rules:  http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/OMOKnights.pdf

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: Pullman-Standard Color Guide to Freight Equipment

Pullman-Standard Color Guide to Freight Equipment

The Decades of Color 1960-1970

James Kinkaid. 1995

Morning Sun books


Back in the old days, most freight cars were limited to a pretty bland set of colors. Boxcar red, boxcar brown, flat black and dull gray with white or black lettering were the norm. Colorful cars were few and far between. Those few inspired the more popular models of freight rolling stock.

Insofar as model trains in the old day, someone figured out that it was actually women who bought most of the toys. They made the purchases for their sons. To that end, train sets included colorful cars so as to appeal to moms.

On the real railroads, colorful cars were a small minority of rolling stock well into the 1950s. Then came the era of color full cars. Many railroads and others who owned rolling stock started dressing some of their cars in brighter livery. Pullman Standard proved cars that were factory-painted in the customers’ preferred colors.

Pullman-Standard Color Guide to Freight Equipment The Decades of Color 1960-1970 is a collection of Pullman photography of many of the cars it build and painted in striking, colorful schemes. Listed by railroad in alphabetical order are a host of boxcars, stock cars, hi-cubes, hoppers and others in colors that would make any O-Gauger smile. There are even some limited and one-of-a-kind cars included.

This is a ready reference of striking rolling stock. For those who want to paint their own, the crisp photography will be a useful guide.  


http://morningsunbooks.com/

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sci-Fi Crewmen, from Mortars to Starships

Crewmen

Science fiction has its share of small craft pilots, fighter pilots and crewmen of various weapons and vehicles. A glimpse at aspects of current crewmen gives insight into how the crewman of the future may develop.

With the release of the Hasbro Star Wars army men type figures, we have a nice assortment of armed combatants based on that franchise. Along with Imperial Stormtroopers and Rebel infantry, one will find various pilots, crewmen, Jedi and aliens.

Let’s look at pilots and various crewmen.  At this time on Earth, pilots and crew of military aircraft receive training both for flight and for ground situations. Fighter pilots are taught what to do if they are shot down. This includes escape and evasion and use of firearms. The same training is given aircrews of bombers and other combat aircraft. While they might not have the ground combat skills of an infantryman, they can put up a fight.

In a futuristic setting, an air crew might be able to also act as a small landing party. They may be able to set up a small perimeter and explore the immediate area. I doubt they would be prepared to fend off a serious attack. In that case, escape via their aircraft would be the obvious option.

If we look to the Star Wars figures as an example, we see the Tie Fighter pilot and several X-Wing pilots all armed with pistols. It would be realistic to assume that the Tie Fighter Pilot has good training in using his weapon plus skills in the use of cover, concealment, escape and evasion. Rebel training would vary from unit to unit. It may range from very good to poor to uneven..For instance, one unit may be taught excellent shooting skills but poor escape and evasion techniques. This kind of spotty training is consistent with historical precedents for rebellions and mercenaries.

Crews of combat vehicles such as tanks, personnel carriers and self-propelled artillery are trained primarily in manning their respective vehicles / crew-served weapons. Most armies also give these troops basic infantry training so they can fight when dismounted. Crews of crew-served weapons such as mortars, missile launchers and the like also receive infantry training. They can defend themselves and their weapon. Usually, such troops are protected by infantry operating between them and the enemy. It was discovered in World War II that to leave such men untrained in personal combat is a mistake. The speed of modern warfare and the likelihood of troops operating behind the lines demands that all military personnel in the combat zone need basic infantry skills. We can assume that in futuristic scenarios among humans and alien types, that lesson had also been learned.

Then again, there is no accounting for some things that aliens do.

I am reminded of how Japan used Koreans as secondary troops during World War II. These men were used in labor and construction battalions, supply units and such. They had very little combat training. Call it a case of smugness and bigotry that the Japanese did not think it worthwhile to teach the Koreans to defend themselves. Indeed, many of the “Japanese” troops captured during World War II were actually Koreans from labor and supply units.

We can use the Navy as an example of how crews of larger vessels would be trained. Most would receive a basic sort of training that may include rudimentary crew skills and perhaps basic use of personal weapons. Most training would go into developing a crewman’s skills for his particular specialty. For instance, a ship‘s crew today includes radar men, sonar men, engine crews, and even food preparation. Combat with larger ships generally involves crew-served weapons such as ani-aircraft guns, heavier artillery and missiles. Many crewmen have a “battle station” that requires serving the guns or other combat necessities.

For times when personal combat skills are necessary, most ships have a contingent of security personnel. The US Navy assigns Marines to its ships for this purpose. Futuristic craft may have special security teams or their verison of Marines. They would handle internal troubles as well as attempted boardings and provide landing parties.

Special types of ships are designed to transport troops and heavy weapons to combat areas. These would be well-defended.

Something like the “Death Star” would have an abundance of regular crewmen plus contingents for internal security and landing parties. A starship like the Enterprise should have a unit of personnel similar to the Marine contingent on a modern Navy ship. The crews of small ships like those in Firefly and Farscape’s Moira are responsible for thetr own defense.

On the whole, be they assigned to large weapons, vehicles or components of a large vessel, crewmen prefer to stick to their specialty. While they can function as an impromptu infantry, they prefer to man their guns / tanks / ships. Crewmen would rather leave infantry and security work to the grunts.

*****

To understand dismounted crewmen in a gunfight, the best example is from the Western genre. Think of scenes where cowboys defend from behind a wagon or from a house. This is not the coordinated musketry of a rifle team. The cowboys can shoot and provide cover, but they are not as polished as men trained to fight as a unit.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sci-Fi Realistic Armies and Squads


Judging from the movies, Imperial Stormtroopers are lousy shots and poorly trained in combat in enclosed areas (towns, ships, etc.) They have very little training in practical infantry tactics. Then again, the same can be said for the Redshirts among original Star Trek crews.

For a realistic sci-fi game, units of regular and elite troops would have to be formidable thanks to equipment, training and support. These troops would have protective gear, reliable weaponry and appreciable combat skills. It is useful that these would include:

Use of cover and concealment
Marksmanship
Use of extra weapons such as hand grenades.
Close combat skills, both unarmed and using hand-held weapons
Practical fire team and squad tactics.
Use of various infantry weapons: pistols, heavy rifles, small rocket launchers, etc.
Scouting and Patrolling
The ability to assess and respond to enemy action
The ability to coordinate one’s actions with other team / squad members
The ability to communicate with other members of one’s army

These are basic skills, the equivalent of which are taught in modern basic training. Advanced versions of these skills are common among regular combat troops.

Among advanced skills are fighting techniques adapted to various types of terrain. These may include jungle, grassland, tundra, sand and stone deserts, forests, and swamps. Sci-fi scenarios would also include combat in low atmosphere and low gravity environments. Combat in aquatic and subterranean environments may require specially-trained troops.

Unless they had good training and discipline, a platoon of Rebels would be at a disadvantage against a squad of Stormtroopers with realistic fighting skills.

Remember also the ability of Imperial troops to call in support and reinforcements from larger units.

In an OMOG game, imagine a Stormtrooper unit of nine to twelve men. It will have a commander, assistant commander, regular weapon teams (equivalent to rifle teams) and a heavy weapons team (equal to auto rifle or LMG team). There may likely be some sort of rocket-propelled or simple grenade launcher. Imagine that at first contact, the squad has alerted the next level of command. This means that in a number of turns - maybe ten or twelve - more troops and weapons may intervene. The Rebel unit has to accomplish its mission before Imperial support arrives.

Stormtroopers, may also be standard enemy infantry / marines, Peacekeepers, Scarans, etc. Rebels may also be mercenaries, etc.

Rebel and irregular forces usually have inferior arms, mixes and incompatible weapons, and limited supplies of ammo and support. Imperial and other government forces are part of their government supply chain and have abundant ammo and other resources. This includes the ability to operate in different environs, etc.

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The problem with Sci-Fi writers is that they have no experience with military matters, especially in these days. When designing a government army, they should look at current counterparts. I would suggest downloading one of the soldiers’ basic skills manuals from the past 40 years. Also, a manual on the infantry squad and platoon. and one on scouting and patrolling. Various such manuals from World War II to the present can be found online. If a writer wants to write about armored vehicles or artillery, he ought to acquire basic information on the operation of modern tanks, personnel carriers and artillery units.

It stands to reason that futuristic infantry, armor and artillery will evolve from the lines established for its current counterparts.

There are ways that armies have fought through the ages. Modern armies have evolved to current modes of warfare. What may the future bring? What may be available in a futuristic, distant part of the galaxy that evolved differently from Earth?

Another monkey wrench in the works: how would different cultures affect the way soldiers fight? In World War II, Japanese culture supported suicide attacks. On the other hand, the Israeli army does everything it can to protect the lives of its soldiers because of its far more limited manpower.

This much I can assure you as a veteran: the regular army forces of a government will reflect its leadership in terms of training, equipment, leadership and support. Armies of stable governments tend to be well-trained, well-led and well-supported. They can fight well. A ragtag bunch of rebels would have a hard time confronting such a force. Rebels may pull off a small raid or ambush infrequently, but they would find themselves outmatched by a well-trained and well-led government unit.

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Star Wars, Star Trek and other militaries are made to look good on screen. Their primary purpose is to entertain within the parameters of their respective franchises. We cannot easily equate the weapons carried by sci-fi characters with their Earthly inspirations. The standards are not so much how an effective weapon might appear, but how cool a weapon looks.