Created By: FrodoGoofballCoTV on July 6, 2011 Last Edited By: FrodoGoofballCoTV on August 29, 2012

Simplified Military Force

A conflict in which one side has far fewer types of equipment than the other.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
NEW: Major revision (again!)

NOTE: preliminary concept; name, description, etc., are all subject to change or discussion. Rolling Updates underway.
In Real Life, most large organizations utilize a wide variety of equipment and vehicles. In fiction, that level of "diversity of gear" is often not shown due to the Law of Conservation of Detail, but the extent to what is shown will often vary not only between franchises, but within the same story as well.

This trope is about two or more opposing or rival groups that are shown with very different numbers of uniform, equipment, weapon, vehicle, etc. designs. This isn't necessarily an indication of numeric superiority or actual diversity, however. One side could have 20 types of humongous mecha that are essentially just variations of a single theme, and they only have one of each, while the other side has exactly six types of vehicles, but they're very different from each other and each design is availabe in large numbers.

Usually it's the antagonists who suffer the most from this trope while the protagnists have more types of equpment, but the reverse also occurs.

There might be some good reasons for doing this:
  • Screen time: If the villains are offscreen 95% of the time, it makes sense that we're not going to see every piece of equipment they might have.
  • Culture: when dealing with Ditto Aliens or a Planet of Hats, it might actually make sense that they'd have only one make and model for any given specific task.
  • Characterization: it's common for heroes to have a full squad of named characters, each with their own unique personality, backstory, etc., while except for the Big Bad and The Dragon, the antagonists are all mooks. That tends to be reflected in their equipment.
  • Ease of identification: if there are several sides rather than just two, it's common for the diversity of gear for each group of antagonists to be kept to a minimimum so that the audience can quickly determine which antagonist the heroes are facing today.
  • Creativity: writers, set and costume designers, etc. like to get creative, so if they only end up designing a few cool things for the villains, they might allow themselves more freedom with the hero's designs to compensate.
  • Symbolism: It's often effective to show unity by contrasting diversity with sameness. For example, if you have a series about Space Fighter pilots, it might make sense to have a central team where each member is a different race (or species) but they all fly the same type of Space Fighter. The Anti-Human Alliance, on the other hand, might then come up with a different design for them to defeat every other week.

In some cases one or both sides are shown with many types of equipment, but most of them are limited to a one - scene or background appearance to give the impression of a realistic diversity of design, but there are relatively few designs that get more than a minute or two of screen time, or one side may have more capoitol ships, but the other has more small vehicles.
[NOTE: although most of the examples below are Scifi, this does not only apply to Sci-Fi. It can apply to fantasy and realistic fiction equally well.]

Examples:

Anime and Manga:
  • In Gall Force, the Solnoids employ a dozen or more mecha and small craft designs, while the Paranoids employ only a few.
    • In the sequel "Earth Chapter", this is justified, as the human forces are a makeshift allaince making do with the surviving designs from each component force, while the MME are a much more monolithic.
  • In Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, if you take this as a separate series rather than a story arc, this is played straight as there is basically one design with two variations for the mooks.
  • In Gunslinger Girl, each of the main Fratello (two man combat teams with a human and cyborg) uses up to several different weapons each, while the antagonists aren't nearly so extravagant with their top - ranking troops.

Live Acton TV:
  • In the various incarnations of Star Trek, The Federation has been shown using nearly as many different ship designs as all the major villain races combined. The number of designs for each species or group is almost directly proportional to screen time, but it's also probably a case of needing to keep alien forces consistant.
  • In the Battlestar Galactica origional series (1970s), while both the Cylons and Collenials had only two types of combat craft each that got any screen time, the Cylons are shown with only one noncombat vessel type, a freighter/fuel tanker hybrid, and the fugitive fleet had at a dozen or so craft designs. Possibly justified by the Cylons being an army of faceless mooks.
  • In Babylon 5, the Earth Alliance has several warship designs and dozens of civilian craft. The other races average probably less than two larger spacecraft designs and one support craft (usually a shuttlecraft) each. Again, a lot of this is screentime related.

Tabletop Games:
  • Used variously in Warhammer 40K, where most forces have only one or two models of vehicle (transport, bike or skimmer, tank) with various upgrades (switching anti-infantry for anti-vehicle weapons, for example). Averted with the Imperial Guard, who are the closest thing to a modern day army and so have a very great deal of vehicles for nearly every purpose.
    • The trope itself can be seen in the Dawn of War games (as compared to the tabletop) where only one one variant of any vehicle is seen, with some not even being able to switch weapons.

Examples where the trope is present in reverse (Antagonists have more designs) if you exclude one - scene wonders:

  • In Macross, where the Zentraedi are shown to have a at least several types each of battle pods, space ships and other equipment, and while the humans had many one-episode / one-scene wonders such as defender battleoids, the recurring designs weere limited to the veritechs and the SDF-1. On the other hand, the majority of the battle pod designs were actually just the same basic design with different weapons.
  • Also averted in Uchuu Senkan Yamato, where -- again, aside from the one-episode / one-scene wonders -- the humans have the Yamato and the Cosmo Tiger fighters while the Gamilon forces are shown using all manner of different weapons and ship types.

Questionable examples, will not be included as it currently stands:

  • In the Gundam series, this is sometimes the case (not always, especially G Gundam). (OK, I am confused. Please, more detail on G Gundam).
    • In Gundam Wing, for example, each of the five protagonist mecha was specifically designed with lots of detail, but the bad guys were just legions of identical mobile suits; there were several variations in terms of ability, but they all looked pretty much the same, particularly once Zion developed mobile dolls. It's worth noting that the primary antagonists had unique suits, but they were unique in a sea of brown.
    • However, the antagonists had (in no particular order) Leo, Virgo, Taurus, Aries, Pisces, Cancer, and one additional unnamed one that had big artillery cannons on its shoulders. Seven different designs (plus palette-swaps for different factions) for the mooks/red shirts is a pretty good showing for a mecha series. Their similarities were justified in-verse as they were all mass-production derivatives of the Tallgeese. (so the heroes have 5 rare types and one common one, and the villains have 7 types, or am I reading this wrong?)
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • July 6, 2011
    Deboss
    Hm, not sure how to work this. Sounds like it might just be creator ease, namely they can use more variety to rig the plot differently. Star Trek might be because the series focuses on humans, while we really only meat a handful of alien craft.
  • July 7, 2011
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Battlestar Galactica (1970s). The Cylons had three types of ships: Base Stars, Raider (attack ship) and a freighter/fuel tanker. The Colonials had Battlestars, Vipers, and all of the various ship types in the fugitive fleet.
  • July 7, 2011
    Confusion567
    I think it's a case of Most Writers Are Human, combined with just paying more attention to good guys than bad guys, and a dash of Faceless Goons. I'd also add that in a setting where everyone's human, it's the protagonists that have the most variation.

    • In the Gundam series, this is sometimes the case (not always, especially GGundam). In Gundam Wing, for example, each of the five protagonist mecha was specifically designed with lots of detail, but the bad guys were just legions of identical mobile suits; there were several variations in terms of ability, but they all looked pretty much the same, particularly once Zion developed mobile dolls. It's worth noting that the primary antagonists had unique suits, but they were unique in a sea of brown.
  • July 7, 2011
    Aielyn
    I think that the focus of this trope is backwards. It's not that human ship designers seem to like to make more and more, it's that all the non-human ship designs end up being Flanderized into a defining style. Writers like to get creative in designing ships within their works, but they feel compelled to keep alien ships consistent, meaning they have to be extra creative with human ships to compensate. The trope itself is the tendency to flanderise the alien ships, in my opinion. Of course, the key word here is "opinion", and I do recognise that that's what this comes down to.
  • July 7, 2011
    PaulA
    We already have a trope for "human products are diverse, aliens have a single recognisable style"; I'd say this is The Same But More Specific.
  • July 7, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    ^Could you let us know what it's called?

    ^^, ^^^I think you're probably right. The way I see it, in Sci Fi action series, protagonist forces ususlly have a full squad or Command Roster of named characters, if not Loads And Loads Of Characters, while except for the Big Bad, The Dragon, and the occasional Quirky Miniboss Squad / Villain Of The Week, villain aliens are all mooks. That tends to be reflected in their equipment.
  • July 8, 2011
    DeathCloud
    Fictional army have less vehicles than real ones, most time because full forces aren't showed on screen (and there is no reason or room to show it). Horever even shows manuals don't show this. Some times writers are not aware of issue or some times they don't care.

    It true for not only human forces but for ptotagonist side.
  • July 29, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
  • July 30, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Babylon Five: Earth Alliance has a handful of warship designs and dozens of civilian starships. The other major races each have one or two major warships plus a few support vessels like shuttles. The races in the League of Nonaligned Worlds only have one or two spaceship designs each, if they have any at all.
  • July 30, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Related to Ditto Aliens.
  • July 30, 2011
    terrafox
    • This was actually averted to a great extent in Macross, where the Zentraedi (sp?) are shown to have a wide range of different battle-pods, space ships and other equipment while the humans, aside from the one-scene/one-episode wonders (such as defender battle-oids), only have the Veritechs and the SDF-1.
    • Also averted in Uchuu Senkan Yamato, where--again, aside from the one-episode/one-scene wonders--the humans have the Yamato and the Cosmo Tiger fighters while the Gamilon forces are shown using all manner of different weapons and ship types.
  • July 30, 2011
    JonnyB
  • July 31, 2011
    Arivne
    ^^ @terrafox: Would those be Inversions (i.e. the reverse of a trope)?
  • July 31, 2011
    terrafox
    I'd be hesitant to call it a full inversion due to the the existence of the protagonists' one-episode/one-scene wonders in both series. That said, it definitely teeters between inversion and aversion.

    Also, I would disupte the Gundam Wing example due to the enemies having (in no particular order) Leo, Virgo, Taurus, Aries, Pisces, Cancer, and one additional unnamed one that had big artillery cannons on its shoulders. Seven different designs (plus palette-swaps for different factions) for the mooks/red shirts is a pretty good showing for a mecha series. Their similarities were justified in-verse as they were all mass-production derivatives of the Tallgeese. However, Endless Waltz, when taken separately, plays it straight as there are basically one design with two variations for the mooks.

    One last note, I think this should be expanded to cover not just SF series dealing with alien space fleets, but to all cases where the non-protagonists' forces are grossly simplified to only a handful of different vehicle designs. With that, it should become a sub-trope of Law Of Conservation Of Detail.
  • August 2, 2011
    terrafox
    bump
  • December 5, 2011
    Koveras
    See also Mildly Military.
  • December 6, 2011
    Chabal2
    • Used variously in Warhammer 40 K, where most forces have only one or two models of vehicle (transport, bike or skimmer, tank) with various upgrades (switching anti-infantry for anti-vehicle weapons, for example). Averted with the Imperial Guard, who are the closest thing to a modern day army and so have a very great deal of vehicles for nearly every purpose.
      • The trope itself can be seen in the Dawn Of War games (as compared to the tabletop) where only one one variant of any vehicle is seen, with some not even being able to switch weapons.
  • March 13, 2012
    Deboss
    Is there a particular reason to make the heroic version the normal version?

    G Gundam is not like the rest of the Gundam series in that it focuses on kung fu tournaments in giant robots instead of warfare.

    Gundam Wing, the mooks of the villains have a number of specialized mecha as opposed to the hero's unique Super Prototype units. The main villains also get their own version of the Super Prototype. The heroes units are all unique multipurpose units as opposed to the more diverse specialized but mass produced mook suits.
  • March 14, 2012
    TBeholder
    Hammer Corps? If all you can do is a hammer you arm all your troops with hammers.
  • August 29, 2012
    DeathCloud
    I noticed something what could be part of this trope or be relented trope.

    Depending what medium and who protagonist are that part of military force will have more stuff. TV shows and moves have less types of units than games. And in games if its about ground forces its have many types of infantry or land vehicles and less types of space fighters and warships (Mass Effect for example where fighters and one type of them can be seen only in cutscenes) and if game is about space combat like space sims it's have more types of fighters and capital ships, but few types of ground troops (see Freespace where only one type of Terran and Shivan solders showed in one cutscene).
  • August 29, 2012
    JonnyB
    In Starship Troopers, the Mobile Infantry is shown only having foot soldiers - no artillery, tanks, mechs or any other heavy support craft. They don't even really use air support (some fleet planes are shown "glassing a planet", but they are never overhead assisting when actual combat is going on. (By the second sequel they have finally added armored suits to their inventory...) The bugs, on the other hand, have analogs to tanks, air support and artillery.
  • August 29, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ In the original Starship Troopers it was the other way around. The Mobile Infantry had three variants of Powered Armor (Marauder, Scout, Command) plus a separate K-9 corps with semi-sapient canids bonded to human handlers. The Arachnoids on the other hand had a single warrior caste armed with plasma guns.
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