War game equipment


The recruits practice their war skills with capture the flag games. Each participant carries visible-laser weapons (color coded to match the team color) to fire at members of the other team, and wears a special vest that detects when it is hit with a laser, flashing briefly with red lights on the front and back and thereafter delivering a debilitating shock to the wearer until the game is over.

The interface is pretty solid. It presents a real but non-fatal risk. The lights on the vest sends a quick and unambiguous signal to others that stands in for the…um…otherwise gory signal they would receive in the field when a solider was shot down. The weapons are very similar to what they will be using in the field, so it’s good basic psychomotor practice for using them. And capture the flag is a simple, focused game that stresses field tactics along with mastery of physical skills.


The main reason this isn’t perfect is that these recruits are not going to be facing other humans in the field, but rather giant and ferocious space arachnids. The differences aren’t superficial. Bugs behave differently. They’re of a different size. Their distance weapons in the field are ropy, arcing jets of biological napalm rather than perfectly straight beams of light.

Certainly, what is being learned here is more abstract than practical, and might be a stepping stone to games with more verisimilitude, but if you only had a short time to train soldiers for real-world combat, I would structure even early games to be more like the real world.

10 thoughts on “War game equipment

  1. Bear in mind that at this point in the movie they weren’t at war with the bugs, because Buenos Aires hadn’t been obliterated by the bug meteor. They weren’t necessarily training to fight against the bugs, so more generic wargames might have made more sense. Perhaps there were Mormon separatists or other malcontents that were deemed a greater threat before the bug attack?

    • Excellent point. But the bugs weren’t new to them, right? And we didn’t hear of any other war. I wonder what it says in the books, how far back the last attacks were.

      • Comparing the movie to the book gets a bit weird, simply because of how different they are (I’ve heard it was on purpose, but that one appears to be up for debate). That said, in the book they’ve been at war since the start and know a lot more about enemy tactics and what works against them.

      • Right. They were aware of the bugs, but there’s no indication that the bugs were regarded as the most likely enemy. They had established the “bug quarantine zone” which presumably would have meant that they wouldn’t *need* to tangle with the bugs, at least until Buenos Aires.

      • using the book doesn’t really work here.. in the book, the bugs are a machine using race, with tech comparable to humanity. their society is just insect like, with different castes that have been selectively bred to their roles. the ‘bug’ name is because they’re descended from alien psuedo-insects in the same way humans are descended from apes and monkeys. so their warriors used powerful energy rifles and such, and had been bred to be on par with a suit of powered armor.

        that said, their are non-bug enemies established in the book.. the Skinnies for example are a race of alien humanoids, also on par with humanity, which ends up siding with the bugs at the start of the war. the opening chapters of the book are Rico in an attack on a skinnie world as part of a psyops ploy to get them to withdraw to neutrality. (IIRC)
        and IIRC, there are references to other races on both sides of the war.. we just never get names or descriptions.

  2. Not entirely unprecedented. There was an equally horrible mismatch between training and reality among all the European militaries at the start of WW1, with equally horrible casualties in the opening battles. On a much smaller scale the same thing happened to the colonial marines in Aliens.

    Maybe it is a generic problem for militaries in a science fiction universe? How can you train your troops when you don’t know what the heck you’ll be fighting next? Perhaps the best you can do is basic weapon handling and teamwork, and hope enough survive the initial encounters to be able to develop better tactics.

    • I guess that’s why you would do generic training. Soldiers have to be adaptable, and abstract skills are exactly that.

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  5. The book and the movie aren’t the same thing which may be the reason there is contrast, the movie was originally call bug hunt at outpost 9, and changed it to be similar to the book when they bought the rights to the novel. So the comparisons have holes because originally they were two completely different things

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