Friday, October 26, 2007

Blashphemy or Faithful - Starship Troopers Edition

Most of you might not have been aware of just how much Starship Troopers related merchandise there is out there. Let's see how some of it stacks up:

Starship Troopers
This is an Avalon Hill created war game from the 1970's. That means it used a map marked off with hexagons, cardboard counters for tracking units, and an emphasis on simulation.

Pro: Not just two but three playable sides: mobile infantry, bugs, and the skinnies (the alien race being attacked in the first chapter of the novel). All three play radically different from each other. The mobile infantry can do orbital insertions and deal with the complications of potential scattering. A player using the bugs has a pad of second maps that they can use to mark tunnel construction under the board. Most scenarios require that the mobile infantry not leave any wounded man behind. If it was in any of the combat sequences in the novel then it's in the game. The scale allows for individual soldiers in power suits to be spread over miles.

Con: Um... ah.... I guess there's no rules for playing high school civics class lessons...

Result: About as faithful as a hex and counter war game could be. For those unfamiliar with those old Avalon Hill games I would not recommend hunting it down, though. The games require a lot of work to play (you have to track a squad of mobile infantry right down to their ammo) and anyone not familiar with hex and counter war games is probably not going to find it enjoyable.

Starship Troopers
The Paul Verhoeven movie from the late nineties.

Pro: Well, there's a war, bugs, and a co-ed shower scene (not that something that bizarre was in the book but I've got to put the only good thing about the film in somewhere).

Con: There's no powered armor and the mobile infantry isn't really mobile. In fact the military tactics used in the film make it appear that the earth's forces could easily be beaten by Napoleon. Not Napoleon given futuristic weapons mind you, just Napoleon with his early 19th century French army. Charging into massed enemy formations so that the enemy may slaughter your own forces while hardly being affected themselves went out of style in World War I (I'm giving Napoleon the benefit of the doubt to not be stupid enough to do that since he did know how to use artillery effectively). Even the equipment the "mobile" infantry were using other than the transport to alien worlds might as well have been from World War II, except the "mobile" part since the mobile infantry in World War II was actually mobile.

But why waste time complaining about little things like removing the advanced warfare and replacing it with garbage when the real problem is that the movie took Heinlein's ideas about the value of citizenship and turned it into a message that can be summed up as "Fascism bad." This simplistic theme that anyone who has even the slightest awareness of the history of the past sixty years could tell you is pounded into the viewer's skull as apparently Verhoeven thinks that only gibbering idiots would see his film. The movie could only be less subtle if it was painted fluorescent orange.

Result: The single most blasphemous transformation of a science fiction work ever. If you ever want to see nerd rage mention how much you love "Starship Troopers" to a science fiction fan and after a few minutes say how you think that Verhoeven was very clever.

Starship Troopers
This Warhammer style miniature game from Mongoose Publishing is the current Starship Troopers game.

Pro: While not included in the basic set there is powered armor available. Lacks the novel perverting philosophy of the movie.

Con: It's based more on the movie than the book. Mobile infantry units are tiny, often unarmored, tight packed, and once again not really mobile. The maps are for tight small engagements, rather than the sprawling battlefields that the novel featured.

Result: It carries the blasphemous taint of its evil parentage despite some efforts by Mongoose to add back in elements from the books.