Boarding Pod

"I braced myself for the ripple of impacts, but instead of the explosions I'd expected, I felt no more than the faintest of tremors through the soles of my boots, as the fast-moving projectiles impacted without detonating against the adamantium hull plates. 'They didn't go off!' I said, buoyed up by a sudden surge of relief, which dissipated almost at once as the obvious explanation occurred to me. 'They must be—'
"'Prepare to repel boarders,' Gries voxed through the ship's internal speakers, confirming my conclusion before I could voice it."
Ciaphas Cain, The Emperor's Finest

Boarding another vessel to capture or sabotage it in the heat of battle is an old standby of science fiction, since like so many of other space tropes it happened on the high seas first. Sometimes, though, the usual methods for getting your troops to the other ship won't work. Maybe there's a Teleport Interdiction field in place, and the enemy's Space Fighter screen would prevent boarding by shuttle. Perhaps their Deflector Shields are still up so you can't dock at an airlock, and the enemy's security teams probably have the airlocks covered anyway.

Fear not, for Trope Co. has come to the rescue with the Boarding Pod, which allows an enterprising commander to stuff some troopers into a hollow missile and shoot them at the enemy. Boarding pods are usually single-use weapons that penetrate the target ship's hull by brute force, bypassing defenses and unloading Space Marines in unexpected places. Alternatively they attach to the hull and cut through it with saws or fusion torches or what-have-you. They may or may not have their own propulsion systems and guidance, though those that do have advantages (since space is big, it's easier to hit the target when you can adjust your trajectory).

Subtrope of Boarding Party and There Was a Door, and the ship-to-ship version of a Drop Pod. May be part of a Standard Sci-Fi Fleet and may be used in a High Speed Hijack. Contrast Escape Pod, which is when the pod is for getting off the ship.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Gall Force II had Solonoid fighters designed to penetrate the shields of Paranoid ships and fire pods containing Powered Armor-wearing cyborgs into them at close range.

    Comic Books 


  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • At the start of Cain's Last Stand Cain, his commissar cadets, and a PDF force are sent to investigate an asteroid mining operation that went silent. After tangling with tyranids and having to evac, an SDF patrol boat finds that they arrived by means of a mycetic spore from the hive fleet that buzzed through the Perlia System earlier that year.
    • In The Emperor's Finest Cain is aboard a Space Marine cruiser tracking a genestealer-infested space hulk. They come out of the warp at one point and are immediately attacked by orks, who board the ship with pods.
  • The Mote In Gods Eye. After the Imperial battlecruiser MacArthur is taken over by Motie miniatures, the battleship Lenin's cutter is used to get a boarding party onto the MacArthur by ramming through its Langston Field and into the ship.
  • In Star Carrier: Deep Space a battalion of USNA Marines use one-man pods to board a Slan warship to rescue a captured fighter pilot. The pods use the setting's ubiquitous nanotech to disassemble their way through the hull.
  • Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn has a variant. Grand Admiral Thrawn uses mole miners, airtight digging vehicles he stole from Lando Calrissian earlier in the book, to drill into the control centers of a number of mothballed warships at the Sluis Van shipyard and commandeer them for his fleet. Lando foils this by using his administrator commands to re-engage the mole miners' plasma torches, barbecuing Thrawn's boarding parties.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Stargate SG-1 Replicator ships are known to board other vessels by firing a projectile composed entirely of Replicator blocks, which then rearrange themselves into combat forms.
  • They're called "breaching pods" in Babylon 5, and in "Severed Dreams" President Clark's forces use them when attempting to retake the station from the heroes. They turn up a couple other times as well. Incidentally, the Earth Force breaching pods share some obvious design traits with the Starfuries.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003), when the entire Galactica was used as one to board a Cylon colony.
    • In the same operation, we see that Raptors can perform as more conventional boarding pods, latching on prior to cutting in with torches.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. The Kazon use one of these to steal some of Voyager's advanced technology, much to the surprise of their local expert Neelix who says he's never heard of them using such technology. It's a sign that their former foe Seska is back and is using her knowledge to help the Kazon.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Flying Buffalo's Berserker board game, based on Fred Saberhagen's Berserker stories. The Human player has ram ships which can pierce the hull of a Berserker ship and release boarding parties inside it.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Space Marines launch small shuttlepods at spaceships they wish to board. These things attach to the other vessel's outer hull and create a breach that allows the troops to enter through it.
      • They used to use a pod called the Dreadclaw, which also functioned as a Drop Pod. Except the things turned out to be Evil, and got only worse after the Horus Heresy. Naturally, only the Chaos Space Marines use them now.
    • Orks are adepts of such tactics as well, with crafts ramming through the hull to vomit the Green Tide inside.
    • The incident with the Necron World Engine, a Planet Spaceship that previously withstood a concerted bombardment from fifteen space marine chapters and almost the entire Imperial Navy sector fleet. In an extreme form of this trope, the Astral Knights chapter rammed their battle barge Tempestus through the shields and crash-landed on the surface, then disembarked and started blasting everything in sight to bring down the shields.
    • Usable in gameplay in the spinoff game Battlefleet Gothic, which features both boarding torpedoes (usually unguided) and reusable Assault Boats (shuttlecraft that attach to the hull to cut through).
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones Breaching Pods are available as a variant of Attack Drone that carries passengers, such as the adventuring party, onto enemy ships.

    Video Games 
  • X3: Terran Conflict and Albion Prelude allow missile frigates to fire boarding pods, and even have one that can do nothing else (though in practice the Sirokos is Cripplingly Overspecialized). This has both advantages and disadvantages over spacewalk boarding: on the one hand it requires less mechanical skill for your marines to penetrate the hull, and the pods are a good 200 times faster than jetpacks which makes release position almost a non-issue. On the other hand you now have to distract the enemy's point-defense in addition to keeping their shields lowered, and then there's the logistics issues since there's no factories available to build your own pods.
    • Boarding pods return in X Rebirth; the Albion Skunk can deploy dozens of boarding pods for marines to attack capital ships. They're significantly slower this time around, but since pods are now one-man affairs, losing one isn't the end of the world. Pilots will also use boarding pods when claiming abandoned ships.
  • A specialty of the Zuul (whose species name means "pirate" in their own language) in Sword of the Stars. Other species can research them but only specialized ships can carry them, while the Zuul mount them on other ship classes and get the tech for free. While PD missiles are generally good at quickly taking care of the pods, if even one latches onto the hull of a ship (even a massive dreadnought), it will be taken over in a matter of seconds. A bit of Fridge Logic, as this implies that a crew of thousands can't fight off a few dozen enemy marines.
  • Used by the Covenant in Halo. They first appear in the opening level of the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved where they are, naturally enough, deploying troops onto our heroes' ship. They repeat this in Halo 2, boarding three of the space stations in Earth's orbital defense grid to blow them up and open a hole for the Prophet of Regret.
  • In the the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, at least two flashpoint missions ("The Black Talon" and "The Esseles") feature the players defending against boarding pods or boarding other ships via boarding pods.
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption features the Space Pirates using strangely organic versions of these to attack and swarm the GFS Olympus during the Action Prologue, and they are also present attached to the derelict GFS Valhalla. Scanning them reveals that they are practically Armored Coffins, as the explosives use to breach the hull frequently go off prematurely or are improperly directed.
  • One part of Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior has Shas'la Kais fighting off Imperial Guard stormtroopers who entered an Emissary-class cruiser with these.
  • In mission two of The Babylon Project's "The Raider Wars" campaign, the Raiders attack an Earth Alliance freighter convoy, destroying some ships with fighters and attempting to High Speed Hijack the others with breaching pods.
  • Star Trek: Armada has the Klingon SuQ'Jagh assault ships that can launch boarding pods capable of penetrating any shields.
  • A vailable to Grineer galleons in Warframe, where the Grineer sometimes use them to board Corpus ships. You can actually sometimes use them yourself when fighting alongside the Grineer in Invasion missions set in space, although sometimes they use more direct means (such as ramming the two ships together and connecting them with a boarding bridge) and the Corpus instead tend to use teleport gates to board Grineer ships when it's time to repay the favour.
  • These are launched by Vaygr Infiltrator Frigates in Homeworld 2. Their Hiigaran counterpart, the Marine Frigate, is a Drop Ship instead.
  • Space Hulk has the Blood Angels board the space hulk Sin of Damnation with boarding torpedoes. The first mission has the player working to secure a beachhead.
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light, you or your enemies can launch boarding drones, which cause a hull breach where they land, then start blasting things. In the advanced addition, ion drones also exist, which shut down systems and stun crewmembers. Getting regular crew over is done by transporters.

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    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Boarding Torpedo, Breaching Pod