"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—'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.
"'Prepare to repel boarders,' Gries voxed through the ship's internal speakers, confirming my conclusion before I could voice it."
"'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
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Anime and Manga
- The page picture comes from the Star Wars Expanded Universe companion comics to The Force Unleashed II, where an unidentified TIE variant fires several of these to get Terror Troopers aboard the Rebel frigate Salvation.
- In Star Trek Debt Of Honor, the dikironium cloud creature rams its component pods into starships to unload creatures aboard to attack the crew. In the early part of the comic, this forces Kirk, now acting captain of USS Farragut after the captain is killed, to separate the saucer so the survivors of the crew can escape.
- The wolrogs attack a human ship with these in an issue of Strontium Dog. When they're defeated, Johnny tells them to leave the pods where they are or else all the ship's air will leak out through the holes they drilled in the hull.
Film — Live-Action
- Towards the end of Starcrash, the heroes send troops into the Big Bad's fortress using golden torpedoes which are fired through the windows (it's best not to think about it too hard).
- The F-117X "Remora" aircraft from Executive Decision has elements of this, being able to silently inject a boarding party into a flying jetliner.
- In Star Trek Beyond, the swarm of small ships that Krall uses in his attack on Enterprise do the dual duty of inflicting damage by ramming attacks, and simply penetrating the pressure hull and stopping so that the crews can board the ship looking for the Pointless Doomsday Device Kirk unwittingly collected on his last mission.
- In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rey uses one of the Millennium Falcon's escape pods to board Snoke's ship, Supremacy.
- 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.
- Also set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the one-off novel Cadian Blood had an instance of the Raven Guard using these on the Terminus Est of the Death Guard as a last ditch before they were blown out of the sky. Ultimately subverted though, since instead of troops, they were loaded up with explosives. They failed to destroy the Terminus Est, but the Raven Guard were able to deploy to the surface of the planet below them.
- The Mote in God's 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.
- The Machineries of Empire: the Hexarchate forces use those to deliver their Shuos infiltrators, propaganda and drones into the enemy fortress.
- 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.
- In the finale of Battlestar Galactica (2003), 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 hull 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.
- 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.
- Space Marines also have the Caestus Assault Ram. Its magna-melta fires a shot to weaken the enemy's hull, and then the armored prow smashes its way in. Meanwhile, the occupants are held in an inertial dampening restraint system that protects them from the shock of impact; each restraint harness is so big, it can accommodate a Terminator or a regular Space Marine. Once the Assault Ram has penetrated the enemy hull, the assault charges disrupt any defenders with a blast of shrapnel, the clamps release, the hatches drop, and the occupants charge into the fray.
- 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 went on a ground campaign 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). Most ships are too big and well defended to be captured outright, so most boarding parties in 40K attack to damage a critical system, and then evacuate if possible. In the backstory, a few naval forces have an element dedicated to capturing enemy ships, but this usually amounts to a small army.
- 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.
- 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 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's flagship.
- 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.
- Available 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.
- Spacebuild has assault pods that can launch players into enemy spaceships.
- In stage 2 of MDK 2, without functioning teleporters, Doctor Hawkins opts to send Max inside a torpedo aimed at the alien orbiter. What follows is a minigame where you steer the torpedo through an Asteroid Thicket (On an orbit around Earth. Don't ask.) that ends with the torpedo bursting through the orbiter's hull and massacring lots of little green men in the process (even more die when Max pulls out firearms). Later, Max escapes from the orbiter back to Jim Dandy with an alien shuttle which he crashes into the ship's window (again, killing aliens, but only three this time).
- Justice League featured these in the second season climax. Each pod was loaded with cloned Ultimen, and had triple buzzsaws for cutting through the Watchtower's hull. But given that their goal was shooting down the Watchtower, the question has to be asked why they didn't just fire normal missiles.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Separatists have a kind of pod with a spike at the front that can pierce the hull of a ship. The spike then separates into four arms, widening the breach and allowing the boarding party inside the pod to exit.