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


(permanent link) added: 2011-07-06 23:22:27 sponsor: FrodoGoofballCoTV (last reply: 2012-08-29 14:08:16)

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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?)
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