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It is sometimes claimed that the use of militarized spaceships will make planetary forces obsolete. After all, why waste men and vehicles on the ground if you can just blast them from orbit with lasers, missiles, plasma bombs, or huge rocks?
The answer is simple: Because unless you're going for genocide, you will need to be able to hold your new territory after you've blasted the defenders to ashes. If nothing else the invader needs a base to build supplies for his next glorious conquest. And of course he will want some subjects from which to collect the oppressive taxes needed to pay for his mighty fleet. Not to mention mopping up enemies not concentrated enough to warrant turning starship-grade weaponry on, pacifying local populations, and probably defending ground infrastructure or even taking targets that are too close to places you don't want blown up, or that are somehow protected against orbital attacks. (This is also the reason modern countries still have armies in the face of modern air power)
Army Arrangement and Balance
Most standard SF forces tend to follow the same lines as real world armies. If true aliens are using said forces, there are going to be analogs to human ones.
Compositions of armies vary depending on the technology level and setting. Those set in the future commonly have forces armed with energy weapons and high tech. Post-apocalyptic works tend to have a mix of decaying modern technology and improvised weaponry. Steampunk will go for steam-powered tech with a Victorian aesthetic. Of course, the writer's skill, knowledge and/or interest will also influence an army's depiction.
The most common models are:
- Televised or animated programs: rarely goes beyond basic infantry, tanks/APCs, and usually some kind of aircraft (unless there's the possibility of merchandising).
- Tabletop and video games: will have all of the below and then some, if they can fit.
The Standard SF Army came be divided into several groups: Infantry, Armored Combat Vehicles, Oceanic Ships, Aircraft, and Support. Each group helps each other, balancing out any weakness the other has. For example, Tanks have great protection and well armed, but have poor visibility. Infantry are far less protected than tanks, but are smaller and can take advantage of the tank's blindness. Thus, the tanks need soldiers to protect against infantry, and the foot soldiers need the tank to deal with any enemy armor.
Soldiers trained to fight on foot (or whatever limb used for locomotion), and has been used since the beginning of warfare. Tends to be the most common unit used, often for storytelling purposes or they're cheaper due to logistical or technological limitations (both in reality and in-universe.)
- General Infantry (Grunts): The basic infantryman who does most of the fighting. They come in several varieties:
- Light: Forces that typically are sent ahead for skirmishes, scouting, pursuit, etc.
- Line: The standard grunt, armed with a primary weapon and a secondary weapon. If a series has nothing else, it will have these.
- Heavy: Infantry that tend to be carrying heavier equipment like Squad Automatic Weapons, Missile Launchers, or other BFGs. Like modern soldiers, these are typically found as part of a squad, rather than grouped separately.
- Mechanized: Any infantry that travel via vehicle but disembark when needed. Occasionally supported by their armed transport.
- Elite: Infantry units that are notable for having a better reputation than other units, and may be equipped with better equipment and training. Sometimes Elite units are soldiers who are known for fighting prowess, other times its just means the unit has a longer battle history than others.
- Power Armored: Infantry equipped with a Power Suit, giving them improved protection, firepower, and capabilities. The proliferation of Powered Armor will usually determine the role it plays in battle. Some settings have it common as dirt, and utilized by even the Grunts. Others reserve it for their Elite units, to give them an additional edge. In the middle, they may form an independent corps that takes the role of scouts, air support (if equipped with Jet Packs), light armor/fire support, and other specialized roles.
- Support Infantry: Provide specialized support to regular grunts. Often they are in the rear lines providing maintenance, but some do serve on the front lines.
- Logistical: Clerks, supply officers, chaplains, lawyers etc. who fulfill the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of the soldiers.
- Camp Followers: Often a force on the move collects an assembly of civilian hangers-on to see to the various needs of the troops. While civilians are not technically part of the unit in question, they typically follow them from base to base (hence the name). Between civilian and military support, expect a force to carry around nearly as many staff as soldiers.
- Engineers: Technicians, Sappers, Seabees, anyone who is trained in repair and maintenance of technology and equipment. Sappers (combat engineers) and Seabees in particular actually see combat, as they either demolish enemy emplacements or build front line bases.
- Intelligence: Collects and studies information on the enemy. In the field, they may be interrogators who question prisoners.
- Medical: Doctors and Medics that save other grunts' lives. Perhaps due to the Hippocratic Oath, some medics are totally unarmed, or at least have difficulty firing their weapons. This will of course not be an issue if the enemy makes it a policy to Shoot the Medic First.
- Pilots: Whether its aircraft or tanks, vehicle operators are typically needed to move people around. Although valuable, there is a trend in SF in which aircraft pilots do Special Forces or even grunt work. Presumably so the writer(s) can have both ground and air/space action without having to double the cast. (The reverse -- spec-ops soldiers that can also fly -- is somewhat more believable but strangely rare.)
- Logistical: Clerks, supply officers, chaplains, lawyers etc. who fulfill the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of the soldiers.
- Security: Used for providing security or police work. Typically not as equipped as Grunts, and usually not as effective. However, they are cheaper, plentiful, and useful in peacekeeping. Commonly sent with away teams and base defense, and a favorite of megacorporations. They can range from simple guards to gendarmerie units.
- Marine: Traditionally, marines fall under the command of the navy, but often do find themselves in the same fights as the army. Here, as in the past, the role of marines will be to gain initial ground in planetary invasions and create a sizable perimeter to allow the larger and more mobile army to maneuver. They will also serve as guards aboard fleet ships and installations that escort the army to their combat zone, along with serving as EVA troopers. In a show which focuses almost exclusively on the fleet, any infantry will likely fall under this category.
- Robot: Any machine that supports or even takes the role of an infantryman, and at most the size of a grunt. Sometimes humanoid in shape, but not always. Robots are used by today's militaries, often for scouting, bomb disposal, and recently, fire support.
- Biologically Created: Why stick to regular troopers, when you can create your own from scratch? Basically, any creature created through genetic engineering that is radically different from anything seen before. It can range from human variants to alien horrors. Sometimes, Biologicals can be even sized up, creating organic tanks, aircraft, or even ships. The drawback is that this requires high tech or powerful magic to do. Not to mention the creations could turn on their masters.
- Terror: Any infantry whose purpose is to accomplish their goals by targeting non-combatants and engaging in illegal activities that violates Interstellar law (i.e. rape, pillaging, murder, etc). Not utilized by honorable or good guy militaries, such units are used by less scrupulous forces.
- Exotic: Sometimes, the military will develop an interest into some fringe ideas, like psychic phenomenon. In SF, this occasionally pays off, because there would be little point to mentioning it if it didn't. Could range from a person with ESP who can provide intelligence, to a psychic super being, or even a Squishy Wizard with power armor. Whether or not they're effective varies greatly.
- Racial Specialists: In a group made up of several different races, the physical makeup of some species', for good or ill may set them apart from the other members of their coalition. They may be assigned special equipment that plays to their strengths or compensates for their failings.
- Special Ops: Small teams who are created to deal with specific missions (rescue, counterterrorism, assassination, sniping, guerrilla warfare, training indigs, etc.) that regular Grunts are unable to. Special Ops tend to be at the peak of physical and mental perfection, making them supersoldiers in their own right.
- Political: Where as Special Ops and Supersoldiers are physically and mentally talented, Political troops are chosen as political elite. Whether being the personal guard of a dictator or improving the troops morale, they are often loyal to a regime. Fighting ability of said troops varies, since authority doesn't necessary mean being combat savvy. May be attached to regular armies providing support, but commonly used to keep the regular army in check.
- Indigs: Sometimes the Army will be backed by local forces, often in a temporary arrangement to accomplish the same goals. Despite lacking the equipment or training of regular military, they make up for it by having a better understanding of the local terrain. They're also more motivated to fight: They have much more personally at stake. Sometimes, particularly when defending, this group includes local quasi-military forces like police.
- Cavalry: Although not as common today or in SF, cavalry units do occasionally show up. Like their ancient counterparts, Cavalry is a soldier riding an animal. Unlike their ancient counterpart, they're more or less limited to scouting. One advantage is that certain animals can go where other vehicles can't and can cover more ground. In places where high technology is rare, it makes more sense to use horses or mules, since they don't require any high tech equipment to keep running. Occasionally, Cavalry is used in frontline combat, but often this means the army has technologically regressed or they're riding something so dangerous it could tear a tank to pieces. Other variants include:
- Motorcycle Cavalry: Same principle, only with bikes.
- Air Cavalry: Close-knit helicopter and infantry unit performing recon and short raids. Developed during the The Vietnam War.
- Armoured Cavalry: Units that use ACV’s instead of warhorses, replacing them in their roles as shock troops or locating/holding down the enemy. King's Royal Hussars of the British Army is one example.
- Civilians: Any non-military that is sent out for various reasons. Often, these tend to be either:
- Scientists: Whose scientific knowledge is useful, especially when exploring or dealing with the unknown. Often in the rear, probably in some super-secret military base doing research. Other times they're out in the field.
- Observers: Typically a journalist or some politician, who joins the unit to investigate what is going on the battle field. Occasionally, it's some whiny kid who tags along for no clear purpose.
In either case, it can run one of two ways:
- The unit is made up of recurring characters, and the civilian is new. In which case it causes problems for the soldiers. They have to watch out for the civilian who is typically unarmed, inexperienced, and unable to find their way out of a paper bag.
- The civilian is the main character, a recurring character, or having A Day in the Limelight. Expect their non-military perspective and/or specialized knowledge to save the day, over the objections of the troops.
Armored Combat Vehicles (Armor)
The other major component to a fighting force. Faster, stronger and carrying heavier weaponry most infantry can't. However, Armor requires maintenance: they need techs, spare parts, and fuel to keep on going.
- Scouts: Commonly a dune buggy or motorcycle (or a similar analog). Notable for their quick speed and cheapness, but lack any armor or firepower. They often are used in reconnaissance roles.
- Armored Cars: Think Jeeps or Humvees, a lightly armed vehicle that can be used in a number of versatile roles for support (recon, transport of troops, etc.). In Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games, they're limited to scouting or anti-infantry roles. In other works, they may be given anti-armor weapons in order to make fast flanking or harassment attacks in support of Armor.
- Armored Personnel Transports: Vehicles designed to carry infantry speedily and safely from Point A to Point B, on the off chance somebody tries shooting at them on the way there. There are two major types:
- Armored Personnel Carriers (APC): Designed to transport troops safely, APC's are not meant for direct combat.
- Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV): Can carry infantry, but also provide direct fire support, and may also allow infantry to fight from inside the unit.
- Tanks: Heavily armored and armed all terrain units that are designed for frontline combat. The current kings of the battlefield, but not invincible. One of the biggest disadvantages is that tanks have poor visibility. The other is that tanks tend to require a lot of maintenance. In some settings, Tanks may become obsolete due to technological developments. Infantry may be armed with Power Suits and Armor-killing rockets. Dropships become faster and can hit first. Mecha are so super, they outclass tanks.
In SF, tanks tend to hover, but not always. Tanks often come in several varieties:
- Tankettes: Rare, but occasionally seen (especially if toys are involved). These tanks are about the size of a small car, and typically used for infantry support or recon. Think Tachikomas: fast and well armed, but against heavier tanks or even Power Suits they were outclassed.
- Light Tanks: Often seen in RTS games, these are used for recon. They’re fast, cheap to produce and maintain, and usually can still pack a bit of a punch. In games, they tend to be underpowered, and as a result need numbers to take on heavier tanks.
- Main Battle Tanks (aka Medium Tanks): Tanks that have a successful balance of firepower, mobility and protection.
- Heavy Tanks: Heavier and larger due to their greater armor and firepower. The greatest disadvantage is trying to produce them in great numbers. In Science Fiction, a surprising amount of these will have double-barreled turrets, despite the redundancy and problems of using them in real life.
- Supertanks: The careful application of Phlebotinum has allowed military designers to create tanks that can go above and beyond the limitations of regular armored vehicles.
- Land Battleship: A tank the size of a naval vessel, usually bristling with many guns, and/or one huge one. Often used as a kind of mobile command unit.
- Mobile Armor: For all intents and purposes, a flying tank. All the protection and firepower of a Main Battle Tank, with the speed and maneuverability of an attack helicopter.
- Tank Destroyers: Defensive vehicle designed to take down tanks. They tend to be less flexible than tanks (often lacking a turret), but are cheaper to maintain and build than regular tanks.
- Mecha: Any legged ACV, often bipedal. Although not making sense from a military standpoint, mecha are often used since they are cool and fantastic. Most mecha in the Standard Sci-Fi Army are Real Robots, but using a Super Robot as a form of Exotic specialist is not unheard of. It should be noted that in Eastern (especially Japanese) Sci-Fi, mecha are more likely to be of the "Giant Armored Soldier" type, while Western Sci-Fi seems to prefer the Walking Tank.
- Spider Tanks: Hybrid of a mecha and a standard tank, spider tanks provide the best of both worlds: the coolness of a mech and the practicability of a tank.
- Mini-Mecha: Either a one or two person cockpit on a pair of legs that typically has light weapons and armor and is used as a scout (which actually makes some sense); or a larger version of Powered Armor.
- Technical: Any civilian vehicle modified for military use. Often used by Indigs/resistance forces, technicals are typically weak against military units. However, it does provide mobility where other vehicles are not available.
If any oceanic forces are present, in all likelihood most (if not all) are submersible craft. Whether it's a carrier, battleship, torpedo boat, or destroyer, it can become submerged and still fulfill its duties below the surface. Common in which the ocean is the main setting or a post-apocalyptic world. For a full list of different types of naval craft, see Types of Naval Ships.
Science fiction is apt to have Space Navies fulfill most roles the Air Force or Navy would in modern combat. This is probable, since space ships are in a good position to rain death from above and provide intelligence. However, a Space Navy isn't always available, and thus aircraft must fulfill those roles when needed.
Common in video games, espically RTS, where the setting/genre limits space craft. Most (if not all) of these craft have VTOL capabilities. Outside of games, dedicated aircraft are often replaced by either Dropships, a Swiss army weapon (like a Mecha), or made obsolete due to some technological development that perfects Anti-Air defense.
- Attack Drone: Any small, airborne unit that provides support, often intelligence, maintenance, and firing support. Drones can cover more ground, are automated, and can save lives instead of risking people. The downside is the low durability, clear communications, and technology requirements.
- Fighters: Any small air- or space-craft that deals with air superiority. Can be the same as a space fighter, but not necessary. It's main purpose is to attack other airborne craft.
- Interceptors: Lighter, fast craft designed to catch up with incoming targets. In Real Life, these craft sacrifice maneuverability for performance (such as speed and armament).
- Recon: Provides battlefield intelligence, usually equipped with sensors and communications. Also used to provide early warning from incoming attacks. The more sensors, typically the larger and less maneuverable the craft becomes.
- Electronic Warfare: Designed to jam or confuse enemy communications and sensors, and protect allies from electronic attack.
- Utility/Cargo: Craft that do specialized roles, such as transport, training, and fueling. In RTS games, these vehicles are unarmed for game balance.
- Carryall: Aerial transport that can rapidly deploy and pick up vehicles without the need to land. Like other Utility craft, they have no weapons.
- Close Air Support: Designed to provide fire support for ground forces in coordinated strikes. Durable and armed with precision weapons. Typically, these craft lack any anti-aircraft weaponry and require fighter escort.
- Bombers: Craft that deploys high explosives on installations and other targets. Unlike Fighters, they have a greater range without refueling, and capable of attacking deep in enemy territory. Though they could be used for tactical strikes, Bombers are valued for their strategic importance. Because of their armament, they have little in anti-air weapons and require Fighter escort.
- Fighter-Bomber/Strike Fighter/Multirole Fighters : Craft that can both strike at ground targets and attack airborne targets. Cheaper to maintain, build, and equip than dedicated craft, and avoids being too specialized. There are trade offs, giving up advantage in some areas (such as the long range of a bomber) for generalized performance.
- Helicopters: Sometimes, Dropships or transporters are not available, so the craft tend to show up. Versatile, they can be used for a number of purposes. Commonly used in transport and gunship roles.
- Sometimes there are other air-support vehicles that aren't technically helicopters - turbofan vehicles are a popular choice for some reason - that show up in this role. Generally speaking though, they fly like helis, they fight like helis, and they'll probably get an Apocalypse Now Shout-Out like helis.
- Airborne Warship: Large craft the size of naval ships, but capable of flight. Extremely well armed and armored, but tends to be slow. Popular in Steampunk settings, where they look like naval warships but with propellers or balloons. Futuristic works would go for a starship aesthetic, or have a spaceship fulfill this role. While Carriers are popular, Battlecruisers are also common.
Any miscellaneous units not meant for direct combat, but are vital for victory.
- Anti-Air: Any unit or structure designed to take down aircraft, and sometimes even orbiting craft. In some instances, their weapons can be used on ground forces to great effect. Outside of RTS, it's rare to see a dedicated anti-air unit on the front line. Most SF tanks or infantry have some sort of anti-air weapon (or may have a variant armed with them). Such units are the reason why aircraft my be obsolete in a future war.
- Artillery: Any unit capable of firing large projectiles or energy weapons for indirect fire support. Could be rockets, shell-firing cannons, or beam weapons. In SF, these tend to be Self Propelled Guns, with light armor and threads/legs/hovercraft. However, unlike a tank, it's not designed for direct fire or taking hits. Often seen when Space forces are too expensive to use or not around.
- Command: Any vehicle dedicated for officers to coordinate missions. Often filled with communications equipment and advanced computers to assist the General Staff.
- Drop Ship: Another member of the Standard Sci-Fi Fleet, they can transport units from orbit to the ground and back again. It can also be used for transport or fire support, replacing helicopters in the gunship role.
- Mobile Base: Serves as a base for its forces, but is far more mobile and versatile. It may also provide fire support in battle. However, because of their size, they remain vulnerable to smaller units. Such a role may be served by a space ship.
- Recon: Any vehicle with sensors to gather needed battlefield data. Often protected against most threats, including Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical weapons. In RTS games, such units are often used to detect stealth units.
- Satellites: Orbiting unmanned, craft designed to facilitate communications or gather intelligence.
- Kill Sat: Can rain down destruction from orbit. It could be considered a superweapon, but not always. May be armed with an energy weapon, or it can drop a kinetic payload on top of a target.
- The Big O: Paradigm City Military Police, which consist of Security forces armed with heavy artillery. Should they fail, at least a giant Mech shows up to save the day.
- Blue Submarine No. 6: Considering most of the world is flooded, navies are the primary fighting force. The bad guys use biologically derived ships and infantry.
- Dominion Tank Police: Focuses on a division of Police who drive around Tankettes. They're more dangerous to the city than the criminals.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: The Anime shows Amestris' forces dominated by infantry, with some primative tanks, and the State Alchemists in the role of Exotic soldiers.
- Full Metal Panic: Mithril employs Special Forces that center around Mecha, which a submersible Carrier as a Command vehicle. Gauron and his forces are often Terrorists.
- Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Focuses largely on a Cyborg Security/Special Operations group. In the anime, they have support from intelligent Tankettes. Regular military forces are armed with Spider Tanks and Power Armor (which make short work of the Cyborg Special Ops and Tankette group in open combat).
- Gundam: Most of the attention is on the Mechs, but they're often supported by Armored Vehicles, Infantry, and other craft (Including Land Battleships and Mobile Armors). Newtypes would be an example of Extoic Infantry/Pilots.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: NERV's primary offensive units are Exotic Mecha piloted by disturbed kids. The agency also employs a large amount of Support, Civilian, and Security personnel as well has its own aircraft and a wet-navy ship.
- Robotech: In the Macross saga, the SDF-1 forces include an Aircraft and Troop Carrier (both submersible until the space fold, then they're just welded onto the ship, a number of atmospheric Aircraft, and non-transforming Mecha. The bad guys wear Power Armor, but are huge enough to take on mecha. The Masters saga featured Tank-transforming-Mecha, Anti-air batteries, and a Security branch for humanity. In New Generation, the Scott Bernard had to rely on a group of Indigs armed with Power Armor that could transform into Scouts.
- Aliens: The Colonial Marines are mostly Line Infantry, with Heavy infantry armed with smart guns. They also have transportation such as APC's and Drop Ships. The film also provides an example of Civilians: Burke plays the role of the Observer, Ripley as a consultant.
- Avatar: The RDA has a personal army on Pandora, including tubrofan aircraft, Mecha, as well as regular infantry. The Indigs are the Na'vi, who rely on local animals to serve as Cavalry, both land and air.
- Captain America: The First Avenger: HYDRA has this, due to high tech weaponry using alien technology. Naturally, the hero is a supersoldier.
- The Matrix: In reality, the Machines have large armies of Robots, with special programs in the Matrix to serve as Security. Humanity relies on Special Forces that infiltrate the Matrix, since their only real weapons in the real world is poorly armored Mecha and hovercraft.
- Star Wars: The Empire relies heavily on giant, high tech Mecha and Elite soldiers. The Rebels rely heavily on Special Forces, with their necks being saved by the Indigs. The Jedi and Sith are Exotic infantry. The Prequels and Expanded Universe involves a large variety of combat vehicles.
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: With the transporters malfunctioning, Kirk attempts a rescue with a platoon of Starfleet troops. The Indigs still managed to overwhelm them.
- Transformers: Like the series, giant Mecha with Civilians. Unlike the series, the Mecha get support from Special Forces Indigs with close air support (plus Armor support in the sequel).
- Terminator: Until Salvation, we only get to see brief glimpses of the war. Skynet relies on robotic aircraft, infantry, and even threaded Mecha. The Humans rely on infantry, in at least one time in the first movie, the use of Technicals.
- The film version of the Mobile Infantry in Starship Troopers seems to consist solely of basic troopers and drop ships. The Bugs have castes that act as tanks and aircraft and others though.
- Babylon 5: The Earthforces we see in most episodes are from Security branches. Regular Army are informally known as GROPOS (a contraction of "Ground Pounders") and seem to have the standard mix of personal arms & body armor with squad support weapons. Close Support Aircraft are seen in battles that are stated to be pure Army. Considering their telepathic abilities, the Psi Corps would count as Exotics. The Rangers could be considered Special Forces, Recon, or support depending on how they are being used.
- Battlestar Galactica Classic: Both Cylons and Humans largely rely on Infantry. In Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Terror groups also play a prominent role, for both sides. Pilots often take the role of grunts.
- Sea Quest DSV: Considering the oceanic setting, it's no surprise that advanced submarines are the main focus. The good guys also deploy KillSats, and psychics and dolphins for experimental use. The main ship got stuck with Civilian kid genius. The UEO experimented with Super Soldiers, which didn't go so well.
- Space: Above and Beyond: Both Humans and Chigs seem to rely heavily on infantry for ground combat. Pilots are also used for grunt work, although justified within the show. Armored vehicles are used occasionally by both sides.
- Stargate SG 1: Because the space portal is limited in size, infantry dominates interstellar warfare. The U.S. Air Forces does use robots for drones, scouts, and logistics. Cruise Missiles and Drone Attack aircraft are often launched through the Gate to soften up hardened targets. Scientists are sent along to provide advice and support during exploration. The actions by the rogue NID and the Trust are examples of Terror units.
O'Neill: What kind of scientist carries a gun?
Jackson: Uh, I do.
O'Neill: Bad example.
- Star Trek: Starfleet typically sends down Security force with away teams or on certain missions. It's not until Deep Space Nine that we see any ground warfare. Everyone appears to rely largely on Infantry. To make sure their own Supersoldiers stay loyal, the Dominion addicts all their troops to a chemical agent & sends a Civilian to act as a drug pusher. An episode of the original series had Starfleet personnel using a photon mortar, but the weapon never appeared again afterwards.
- The Bolo series by Keith Laumer, later by David Weber, largely focuses on the AI-controlled Supertanks.
- CoDominium: During the CD era on the colony worlds, Infantry was king, aircraft gone due to technological developments, artillery valuable, and a single tank could decide a war.
- The Childe Cycle of Gordon Dickson: Largely focuses on infantry, but Armor does exist.
- Dune: Because of the existence of effective force field tech, infantry is king. This changes on Arrakis, where the use of shields attracts the dangerous native lifeforms. The Baron Harkonnen uses this to his advantage by using Artillery, considered obsolete thanks to the shields. Super Soldiers like the Sardaukar and the Fedaykin of the Fremen dominate warfare. The Fremen are also Cavalry, using the giant Sand Worms as their steeds. APCs, DropShips and various military aircraft also exist, at least judging by the first novel. No mention of tanks or mechas. Firearms vary wildly, lasguns are often Cool but Inefficient due to the aforementioned force fields (a laser hitting a field would cause a nuclear explosion). Melee weapons see much more prominent use than in most sci-fi settings. Mentats, Face Dancers and the Bene Gesserit can be considered Exotics.
- Hammers Slammers: The titular mercenaries largely employ tanks, supported by Artillery and infantry. Instead of using APCs for transport, the Slammers use open-topped armored cars. Although the Indigs and assorted mercenaries they face are not as well equipped, they still can pose enough a threat to Hammer's men.
- Honor Harrington: Although most of the focus is on space combat, ground combat is no less important. The major sides typically employs marines in Powered Armor, and separate armies. During the Committee of Public Safety, Haven's armed forces included an increase of political units. Tanks exist in the setting, but are considered largely obsolete due to the mobility that the Power Armored troops have combined with some of the more powerful weapons they carry, and thus are seen very rarely. Occasionally, we see the Space Marines of various powers (Manticore, Haven, and the Solarian League Navy) used against unarmored enemy infantry, terrorists, or indigs. The resulting battles are brief.
- Posleen War Series: Dominated by Infantry (especially Powered Armor) and Artillery, since the Posleen anti-air shoots down any aircraft very effectively and many Posleen weapons trivialize Earth-built armor. Oceanic navies also play a role. The one instance of a Civilian going along with some Generals to prepare Earth for the Posleen ends horribly.
- Starship Troopers: An example in which Powered Armor is in common use, and their support comes largely from orbiting craft. For the Bugs, the Warrior Caste serve as their Infantry. A supposed psychic is an example of a Exotic soldier.
- War of the Worlds: The Martians use Mecha, and their technology is so advanced that the Indigs (19th Century British army) are barely a match for them. Artillery and Warships take down a few Tripods
- Bill the Galactic Hero has served in a number of different military roles, including Security, Special Ops, and (of course) a plain old grunt.
- The Confederation of Valor series mostly deals with line infantry who wear low-key Powered Armor, understandable since the main character is a sergeant in such a unit. They're generally transported to the battlefront by air. The series also has aerial fighters, tanks, and artillery, as seen during the full-scale battle in book four.
- BattleTech: Mecha dominate the battlefield, but infantry, tanks, and aircraft are still around. The Clans manage to develop Power Armor that can take on mecha.
- Warhammer 40000: Another example in which almost every single unit type is included. It is also notable for popularizing:
- Political units, notably the infamous Commissars.
- Elites/Supersoldiers: The Space Marines, and several Imperial Guard Units
- Exotics: Space Marine Librarians, Pskyers
- Logistical Support: Techpriests, Priests
- Mecha: Titans
- In Rifts, where small arms are capable of slagging a 20th-century Main Battle Tank or vaporize a human, tough armor is a necessity. Also, Armored vehicles (from bikes to tanks), Powered Armor and Humongous Mecha of many different types and configurations are available to mercenaries and independent adventurers, to say nothing of official military forces. Exotic troopers can include cyborgs, chemically-augmented super-soldiers, psychics, and depending on the individual force, even magic-users, mutants, and Dragons.
- The G.U.A.R.D. faction in Monsterpocalypse are armed with tanks, helicopters, artillery, and other vehicles that act to support Kaiju-sized Humongous Mecha.
- In Traveller the state-of-the-art armies use Powered Armor for a good chunk of their infantry and grav vehicles for cavalry/armor. Rapid-interface units (Space Marines, though only some of these are actually called marines) and the like, have suits that allow them to jump directly from orbit like paratroopers. Artillery is provided by missile launchers and in the case of the Third Imperium, meson guns. The army of the earlier Terran Confederation also contained a number of security divisions specially trained in hearts-and-minds work among conquered Vilani. The Zhodani had specialist commando units with psionic abilities and used Robot troops.
- Star Grunt II is a miniatures game that focuses on the infantry, especially the grunts. However, Powered Armor, APCs, air trainsport and gunships, and artillery are common elements. Tanks are less common, but are supported by the rules.
- Tomorrow's War has rules for everything except Humongous Mecha and Land Ships. As well as for "Irregular" troops such as insurgents.
- Advanced Wars: For the most part, the military units in the games are nothing fancy until AWII. Then the game introduces quasi-Spider Tanks, giant lasers, and the Black Hole forces look high tech. By Dual Strike, they've added Supertanks to their arsenals.
- Battalion Wars features Grunts and Heavy Weapons specialists for infantry, and recon, Light and Heavy Tanks, and specialized vehicles such as Anti-Air and Artillery. It also includes a Supertank in the Battlestation.
- Alpha Centauri: The games has a number of chassis types, including Infantry, Aircraft, Oceanic Craft, Speeders, Hovertanks, etc. In addition, the local Mindworms play the role of Exotic Indigs.
- Command and Conquer: Almost every single infantry and vehicle could be found in these games. Although Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert armies are largely conventional, even they have vehicles that are fantastic (Turbofan Orcas, Chronotanks, Mammoth Tanks, and Stealth Tanks just to name a few). As both the Tiberium and Red Alert series' progressed, they got more and more sci-fi-ish, with Tiberium going futuristic and Red Alert going more Pulp-fantastic.
- This, while Generals on the other hand mostly remained realistic, with only very few true Sci Fi units. Examples are mobile Cruise Missile Platforms, anti-missile lasers and laser cannons, missile jammers, Hollywood Hackers, and the occasional GLA stealth unit, who are World War II tech using Arabian terrorists.
- Dune II: Unlike the books, the Dune RTS games have a wide range of infantry and vehicles. Emperor: The Battle For Dune had the Teilaxu provide Biological monstrosities as units. Many armored units are now Mecha. The Saudukar and Fremen subfactions count as Supersoldiers, while the Guild ground forces are considered Exotic.
- Halo: Dominated largely by infantry (from Light to Elite, and of course the Super Soldiers), although both sides use field aircraft and at least one Armored vehicle. Halo Wars expands on this, giving the UNSC Heavy and Elite infantry (the Hellbringers and Helljumpers respectively), APC's, and Anti-aircraft units. Several of the Covenant vehicles are effectively Technicals, being repurposed mining equipment.
- Jet Force Gemini: The nature of the game limits it to infantry backed up by Attack Drones.
- Metal Gear Solid: Since Metal Gear, the game has involved the titular Mecha or mentions the machines. MSG introduces genetically engineered Special Ops, as well as truly Exotic troops. As the series progresses (save MGS3), the more Sci-fi elements begin to emerge. And even then, Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater involves psychics, a hundred year old sniper with photosynthetic moss in his skin, a jet pack-wearing insane cosmonaut, a guy with superman speed, someone who could control hornets, and a supertank.
- Military Madness (aka Nectaris) follows the basic setup for their armies. Since its set on the Moon, the infantry are naturally wearing power armor. In the Playstation 3 remake, the Buggies are renamed Technicals.
- Starcraft: Powered Armor, Mecha, and Supersoldiers are common. Terrans have Moblie Bases. The Protoss are Exotic by nature, and most of their vehicles are Technicals (being reprogrammed maintenance machinery) . Although most Zerg are technically infantry, they have different breeds that fulfill the various roles in a Sci Fi Army.
- Tanarus: Tanks are the primary focus of the game, mostly of the Main Battle Tank and Hover Tank variety.
- Total Annihilation: Infantry roles are replaced by Mecha. The game is also notable for the its Commander unit. Should the Commander be destroyed, often it's game over.
- X-COM:The Humans fight with advanced Aircraft and Special forces w/Tankettes. The aliens deploy a wide range of Infantry, including Exotic psychic forces, and literal Terror units.
- Some player guides encourage players to develop their ground forces along these lines as well, with specialists and roles.
- In UFO: Enemy Unknown (or XCOM: UFO Defence, if you like) and XCOM: Terror From The Deep the best (and only sensible) tactic was to make everyone wear Flight Suits or Magnetic Ion Armor and train hard in psionics or MC control and wield BFGs. No need to specialise, just make everyone unstoppable psychic flying deathmongers.
- Some player guides encourage players to develop their ground forces along these lines as well, with specialists and roles.
- The Ground Control series has a field day with these tropes. It offers a well balanced mix of line (exoskeleton soldiers) and specialized (scouts, anti-tank) infantry. There are various scout, medium and heavy tanks and self-propelled artillery types, with the Crayven Corporation preferring classic treaded designs ("terradynes") and the Order of the New Daw more advanced hovering ones ("hoverdynes"). There's only one APC in each mission and it plays a crucial role, since it doubles as a command vehicle (in addition to helping speed up travel times of infantry by transporting them, of course). Drop Ships look as bulky and angular as ever, and are ever-present, since you start each mission by landing in one (or several) and deploying your troops. In some missions, additional ones will land and you'll receive reinforcements. Military aircraft ("aerodynes") cover the classic scout/fighter/ground-attack/bomber archetypes.
- The sequel takes place 300 years later, although the units of the two human sides are suspiciously similar to the first game, with the Terran Empire using energy weapons and hoverdynes and the Northern Star Alliance using ballistic weapons and terradynes. This is justified in-story, as the Terran Empire was prospering for nearly two centuries, while the outer colonies were isolated and suffered regression before forming the NSA. Also, many of the NSA planets were colonized by the Crayven Corporation, justifying the tech. The game also adds walkers for the Empire, and helicopters ("helidynes") replace aerodynes as air support. The dropships are no longer the bulky kind and can be turned into the most powerful unit in the game with upgrades. The Virons are similar in terms of ground troops, except for their ability to merge and "un-merge" into new units. Their ground vehicles hover but are called "centruroids".
- F.E.A.R. has a general mixture of various infantry types in the form of the Replica soldiers, who are vat-grown clone troopers who respond to the commands pf psychic commanders (simultaneously fusing Biological, Exotic, and Super Soldier in one package). Within the Replica are specialists; Elite Replica troops in heavy armor, enormous Heavies that are bigger and better armed and wearing oversized armor suits, Spec Ops units in the form of the Assassins, and mechanized support piloting REV Mini-Mecha suits or Elite Powered Armor suits that essentially serve as walking light tanks. Finally, there's robotic units in the form of light "Mech" units which are small bipedal walkers about as tall as a human.
- Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds: Similar to the Literature example above, but humans are on an even war footing with the Martians. The Human arsenal has been expaned with tanks, armored cars, self-Propelled artillery/anti-air, and a balloon. The Martians forces now have Recon, Exotic telepathic, and various construction units.
- In Sluggy Freelance 4U City's military seems to consist entirely of guys in Powered Armor with tranq guns and Dimensional Flux Agitator. No aircraft have been seen so far, possibly because it's almost always raining in 4U.
- In Schlock Mercenary, mercenaries and what we've seen of military forces use various flavors of infantry and armor. They seem specialized for enclosed spaces and other situations where calling down death from orbit isn't an option, so there's not a lot of variety - no indirect fire's been shown. Everyone gets Power Armor. The setting's Deflector Shields are based on gravity control, so most things fly, and the line between armor and close air support is blurry. The closest thing to other aircraft roles is a spaceship with a crew that's been annoyed enough to come down there.
- Dino Riders: Both bad guys and good guys use cavalry. Dinosaur Cavalry!
- Exo Squad: Both sides rely on Exosuits (a cross between a Mecha and Power Suit). The human ExoSquads are supported by jet-pack powered light infantry. Human resistance forces play the role of Indigs (some of them have jetpacks too). The Neosapiens develop Supersoldiers, some focusing on brute strength, others on mental capabilities.
- G.I. Joe: Special forces versus Terrorists, usually with lots of vehicles for just about every niche listed above that could sell as a cool toy (and often did, usually with a certain bit of overlap when you line them up all together).
- Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles: Unlike the movie loosely based off the book, the CGI series actually have Power Armor for the humans. Like the Zerg, the Bugs rely on Infantry variants to act as artillery and other units (including spaceships).
- Sonic The Hedgehog: The Saturday morning cartoon had Robotnik run a force composed of Robotic Grunts, Mini-mecha, Attack Drones, and Bombers. The Freedom Fighters have to make due with simple Infantry.
- Transformers: The series focuses on sapient alien Mecha, with the good guys often dragging along Civilians (which even worse in the Anime Unicorn Trilogy). There is basically no division between infantry and mechanized vehicles, air support, or technical and support functions. The skill and power of individuals generally trump any organized battle plan.