21 July 2016

Some toughts about multi-species sci-fi miniatures armies...

First day of summer leave... Time for some blogging!

Back when I first started playing with toy soldiers, sci fi armies where pretty much all (at least for the games I was aware of) following the "one army, one species" paradigm... 

It's when GW released their Tau and their various alien auxiliaries back in the early 2000 (Tau have been around for 15 years? I'm not getting any younger, am I? I guess most GW players those days don't even remember 40K without Tau...) that I first became aware of that paradigm (nature of the beast: you usually see it only when breaking it).

But the logical consequences of that realization quickly followed... Why not, while we're at it, also get rid of "one unit, one species" and have a truly multi-species army with all echelons down to squads and teams made of several different aliens?
Star Trek Elite Force I & II are computer FPS games released in the early 2000s (just like the Tau) and set in the Star Trek (how did you guess?) universe... The aliens involved are a bit too "humans with rubber prosthesis and/or flashy colours make-up" (no Star Trek bashing here, I do understand that TV shows have constraints specific to the medium) and make a smaller fraction of the team that what I had in mind, but it is a multi-species squad... That kind of "rubber masks" aliens unit would be fairly easy to make out of miniatures: just pick a line of humans and paint their skin alien colours...

The easy way would have been to build an highly irregular army with a TO&E just as heterogeneous as it's recruitment base... I.e. pick a bunch of existing "random" miniatures from various lines and call it a rebel group of ragtag aliens with equally ragtag equipment, and rely solely on paint job to unify them into a whole...
With the exception of the odd tribal leader equipped with a gift-from-his-alien-masters zorty rifle (not shown, but I think there was such a mini), the Kroot (upper right part of the picture) have to visual link to the Tau (left part of the pic) and could as well be a different army entirely... It fits the "primitive aliens used as canon fodder" theme but that isn't what I was thinking about... The Vespid's equipment on the other hand (lower right corner) clearly looks Tau made and I could perfectly envision a regular unit made of both Tau and Vespid! Pictures from random searches on the internet but as far as I can tell they're GW official shots, pasted together by yours.
Somehow it felt unsatisfactory... I do like well organized and rationally equipped and uniformed fighting organizations and wanted that multi-species phantasm of mine to be such regular army...

Also from a design point of view, the "key feature" of that army (the multi-species squads) would be a bit lost into heterogeneous clutter (species, uniforms, equipment), while an highly standardized army would highlight that original feature...

Khurasan Miniatures Jasmine Throne Alien Battalion (JTFB)... Exactly what I had in mind! I love the inclusion of aliens from other lines (Khurasan own Felid, ZombieSmith's Quar)! The JTFB background call for a maximum of a single member of any given species (that way no racial loyalty can get in the way of the Battalion loyalty to the Jasmine Throne)... I wouldn't mind such units to be the norm of a space opera setting instead of the elite exception. Pictures from the manufacturer website, pasted together.

I do realise the practical/economical constraints... In a "one species" army you can easily get away with a given pose being reused a couple of times even in a relatively small army... A typical GZG faction has 8 sculpts of rifles, 4 of SAW gunners, and 8 sculpts of specialists (e.g. 2 officers, 2 comms/EW guys, 2 missiles gunners and 2 snipers) and I feel like I have more than enough for an army of any pretty much any size (your mileagen my vary of course). 

The JTFB hereabove as 20ish sculpts (21 shown, there is also an officer, 2 tank commanders and 2 artillery crews available), but I can't really see myself buying more than a single pack of each... I don't mind: a small platoon is what I like gaming with; but selling only one of a sculpt is probably not really economically viable.

Extract from the French sci fi graphic novel "Wake" ("Sillage" in French)... This SWAT team is clad in integral uniform with no skin showing, yet the drawer manage to convey the idea of a mult-species team by playing on the number and configuration (e.g. back jointed legs) of limbs, the shape of helmets and with the numbers and position of  goggles... I think that approach would work splendidly with the small scale of miniatures without needing an exceptional paintjob to pull out the desired effect! Extract scanned from my copy of the book to illustrate my argument.

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