Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Aliens: A Lesson in Futility

Everybody, I know, loves the film Aliens, if they don't then they are either not Geeks, and pretty much don't count, or they are nerding out on some gonk thing that upsets them in the movie. However, everybody who loves the film can also sit down and point out the obvious problems ranging from a lack  of genre savvy characters, idiot balls in both the overall plot and character actions.

The first one that springs to mind as a wargamer is why oh why do you only send a section of troops to a planet when clearly the ship will carry a platoon or more? Some would argue that it is best explained by those ordering the mission wanting it to fail; in particular Weyland-Yutani.

Well yes maybe, but I'm not a great subscriber of conspiracy theories in general. Yes, I find them amusing, but real life plots are usually much more explainable through stupidity from a  lack of foresight, or planning.

Here is how I see the whole section deployed to accompany Burke & Ripley to LV-426.

Burke: sells a line to the company that their could be the chance to recover an alien that might be hostile and therefore useful to the bio-weapons division.

Weyland-Yutani board think this is a waste of time as all previous aliens have turned out to be mindless animals, but the records say their are aliens out there with technology, but we haven't found them yet. So they have a punt on Burke.

The United States Colonial Marines is undergoing a periodical review of its budget. Yes they have a ship, yes grabbing an alien would be good, but yadda-yadda it will just be another bug hunt. Command pushes an order down the chain of command.

Captain whoever has a new Lieutenant he needs to break in to replace the one lost on the last mission when he fell down a hole and got eaten by some indigenous lifeforms. A platoon is available, except that one third are out on R&R, training etc, and the other third exist only on paper. No problem, it's only a bug hunt, and by good fortune the two heavy weapons team gunners are available, and they have a pretty good senior Sargent to nurse the green Lieutenant.

Okay deploy one third of the platoon with heavy weapons to make up the weight of firepower and we are good to go. What could possibly go wrong?

And that is how I think the Sulacco ends up in orbit around LV-426 with the people it did.

PS: I would love to have this kit, but not at the price I saw it on eBay.


  1. that sounds like a fairly pluasible sceanario, actually. though i wouldpoint out that Apone is heard ordering around two squads by name during the clearing of the colony, so to make it work the USCM would have to have sent a pair of under strength squads, which seems highly unlikely

    the USCM technical manual that got put out explained it as the colonial marines using a different organization. basically their squads had 2 fire teams of 4 men each, for squads of 8 men, each squad with one smartgun. the platoon commander had a demi-squad of himself, the sarge, and any advisors that came along. the end result is a platoon that has about a third of the troops that a real world marine unit would have.

    1. I agree that is what the manual says. What I think is that the explanations in the manual are flawed. What is described is a typical US Army squad for light infantry. Marines usually go for 13 men.

      To me the smart gun is an M60 analogue, rather than SAW, based on size, and that it appears to be a larger caliber weapon.

      Finally, 10 men is not enough to make a platoon, period. An A Team perhaps, but there again that is an US Army thing, or Special Forces, and the Colonial Marines appeared, to me, be deployed as conventional light infantry from an APC. YMMV hence my alternative take.

    2. The full platoon in the manual would two eight man squads plus the command team for a total of 18 guys. Or in other words, a formation similar to a British infantry "brick", or half-platoon. We've found out the hard way that a platoon can be too unwieldy as a single formation in a city, especially when patrolling and fighting house to house, so we tend to split the platoon in two, with one and half sections per brick. One led by the Lt. one by the sgt.

      So it's not that far-fetched to imagine that a USCMC platoon would only be eighteen strong at full strength. Especially when you consider the cost and duration of space-travel in the Alien's setting. And with the kind of detachments you describe for guys on leave or training courses, an understrength platoon coming in at ten strong in the way you described actually makes even more sense.

    3. Learn something new day. Thank you as that will be useful to quote at Dean when I next go to Contact.

  2. One thing that I've always wondered about is this...

    Are they US Colonial Marines, or are they "just" Colonial Marines. I can't remember, must re-watch the movie, but in my mind they are working for Weyland Yutani, i.e. they are private military contractors. Hence the presence of Burke as company official.

  3. Leif,
    The patches do say USCM on themand the ship is the USS Sulaco, which would make me think that they are your first interpretation. The khaki shirt and saucer cap are also very USMC in origin.

  4. That's a great explanation of events and one that makes complete sense.