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"Ain't no party like a boarding party 'cause a boarding party don't stop! 'Til we take the bridge!"

Going over to the other Cool Starship or Cool Boat in person, to capture the vessel, rescue (or capture) someone, retrieve a priceless MacGuffin or other cargo, or find a way to destroy it that's otherwise impossible in normal combat. Or just to kill everyone up-close-and-personal because it's a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.

Having Cool Ships unleash technicolour Beam Spam against each other is all very well, but audiences can tire of such impersonal battles. Since in science fiction, Space Is an Ocean, anything from a nautical tale can be recycled in space. Additionally, there may be someone or something on that ship that has to be captured or rescued rather than plasmafied with a huge bank of laser cannons.

Sometimes the boarding is stealthy: A Trickster hero might use the fact that their opponent is distracted to slip abord the ship using a hidden access port while it's in motion. Other times it's all about the direct approach: for example the Imperial Stormtroopers blasting their way into the Corellian Corvette at the start of Star Wars IV. Tractor Beams can be most helpful here to reel in a non-compliant spaceship.

Often a small shuttle is used for transporting the boarding party to the airlock, where they either hack the digital lock or use laser torches to cut their way in. It's also possible to beam aboard via Teleportation in some works. A third option is the Boarding Pod, which is simply fired at the target with the intent of punching straight through the hull (boarding pods and cutting the door open are an example of There Was a Door).

Once aboard, combat can be oddly diffuse, a matter of stalking down deserted corridors and taking pot-shots around corners. Or it might be white-knuckled claustrophobic close combat with laser swords.

In a nautical setting during the age of Wooden Ships and Iron Men, it's more a matter of swinging on ropes with a Cutlass Between the Teeth and a brace of muskets in your belt. In more modern settings a team of black ski-masked commandoes approaches the ship in a rubber dinghy and uses a rope ladder to get aboard, or fast ropes from a helicopter. They are typically armed with submachine guns, as rifles would be unwieldy onboard the ship.

Throughout history, and into current times, this is Truth in Television, particularly when dealing with maritime law enforcement agencies such as the US Coast Guard. Real Life versions can involve boats or helicopters, and in their early days, even submarines.note  Along with amphibious beach landings, armed boarding of ships is what marines are trained for.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bodacious Space Pirates, the Bentenmaru deploys boarding parties during the ship's usual 'raids' on cruise liners and on more serious jobs.
  • Captain Harlock also frequently harpooned enemy ships with cables that doubled as tunnels to allow for boarding parties — indeed, a Space Pirate's way to fight.
  • Occurs several times in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, from taking a Death Star-like space station by a ruse, to several more direct approaches. Combat can be assumed as vicious, and the boarding party's success variable, since due to the show's Minovsky Particle (an explosive gas-like particle that prohibits the use of ranged weapons—specifically energy weapons with the Panzer Grenadiers using crossbows in order to circumvent it—in its presence) the favored weapon for most infantry engagements are two-handed battle axes. Except when Walter von Schönkopf Or his favorite student, protege, and eventual son-in-law Julian Mintz is commanding. His success as a boarder can be only compared to his fame as a ladies' man.
  • Parodied in pirate-theme work One Piece:
    • When Straw Hats on their way to Drum Island, Wapol and their pirate crew aboard Going Merry, but Straw Hats just standing there until Wapol's crew fired their gun.
    • When Straw Hats on their way to Fishman Island, Caribou invade in this way, who try to kill all of Straw Hats. However, Caribou's pet which carried Caribou's boat was hurt by Straw Hats, so it ran out in horror, leave only Caribou on their boat alone.
  • Outlaw Star featured ships with grappler arms for close-quarters combat, but the title ship also had an "assault bolt", tipped with a hole saw, which would bore into the opponent ship to deliver a crewman - generally Gene Starwind - for sneaking and violence.
  • Happens twice in Valvrave the Liberator. The first time is in episode 1 when L-Elf and several of Dorssia's Ideal troops infiltrate JIOR's Module 77 to steal a Super Prototype mecha called a Valvrave.
    • The second time occurs when Cain, the commander of the Dorssian forces which harasses Module 77's advance to the moon, attacks it by ramming their modeule with one of his ships, and then attempts to gain control of it, while simultaneously keeping the Valvraves outside from interfering.

    Comic Books 
  • Star Wars: Doctor Aphra: In "The Catastrophe Con", Aphra is a convict soldier on board the Accresker, 80,000 tons of wrecked warships magnetically held together and towed by a Star Destroyer to wherever the Empire needs an expendable Boarding Party, where they just ram the whole lot into a rebel ship, extend an oxygen bubble over everything, then send in the convict troops explosively leashed to a combat droid.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942):
      • When an odd Clock Roach send Steve Trevor, the Holliday Girls and Nifta & Redbeard's pirate crew back to the golden age of piracy and tweaks their memories and roles to fit in Steve and the girls find themselves aboard a ship being boarded by Redbeard's crew.
      • As the Amazons have a strict no-killing rule they have to use their fleet of spacecraft to get close enough to board the ships of Uvo's fleet and take those on board hostage in order to defeat them.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): During Di's Space Pirate Revolutionary days she and her high command would form the core of the boarding parties sneaking and tricking their way onto Sangtee Empire ships in order to rescue the slaves being transported with the fewest possible casualties and least destruction, since they kept most of those ships for their own use.

    Film — Animation 
  • Harlock: Space Pirate. In their first battle the Arcadia crew in Powered Armor swing across to a Gaia Coalition patrol ship on ropes. Later when the Orpheus fires anchor cables into their ship and they're boarded by Gaia Coalition troops, Yullian gripes: "Those copycat bastards; that's our M.O.!"

    Film — Live Action 
  • In the 1959 scifi movie The Atomic Submarine, the eponymous submarine rams the USO (Unidentified Submerged Object) and has to send a boarding party on board the alien spacecraft to cut free their own vessel after they become jammed together. The alien turns out to be Not Quite Dead and those without Plot Armor suffer the fate of all Red Shirts.
  • When Douglas Fairbanks and his men are coming to capture the pirate ship in The Black Pirate, they use a neat little stratagem—they scuttle their canoes and swim underwater to the pirate ship, before boarding it.
  • Captain Blood is an old pirate movie that featured rope-swinging boarding action.
  • Executive Decision had an anti-terrorist squad infiltrating an airliner in mid-flight, by flying a stealth aircraft underneath it. Things don't go well and their commander is killed when the docking tunnel breaks contact with the airliner.
  • The climax of Master and Commander, though rather than swing over on ropes they just lay down gangplanks and use the enemy ship's fallen mast.
  • Happens at the beginning of The Ice Pirates when the pirates raid an ice freighter.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean has a classic maritime boarding by swinging rope, and a rather less conventional boarding: walking out to the ship in question. Also less conventional is Davy Jones and crew's ability to teleport between ships, which apparently has a fairly narrow minimum and maximum range.
  • In Star Trek beaming aboard the enemy ship is a mainstay (though if either party has their shields up, it typically can't be done). One example, Kirk and Spock beam aboard the Narada in the film Star Trek (2009). Fun fact: terminology changed between the original series and the Next Generation era. In TOS, there were boarding parties for ships, and landing parties for planets; in TNG, there are away teams for both.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope opens with Princess Leia's ship being boarded by Imperial Stormtroopers and Darth Vader.
    • Rogue One ends with the Rebel flagship at the Battle of Scarif being boarded by Imperial Stormtroopers and Darth Vader while the Rebels frantically try to get the Death Star plans off the ship and onto the Tantive IV. They barely succeed, and one of the last scenes in the movie is Darth Vader watching as the Tantive IV escapes into hyperspace.
  • Under Siege: A group of mercenaries board the battleship USS Missouri, disguised as caterers and entertainment for the Captain’s birthday party onboard. They capture the ship, lock the crew in the forecastle and attempt to steal the nuclear tipped cruise missiles to sell later. A SEAL team attempts to board and retake the ship, but they and their helicopters get shot down. It is up to an ex-SEAL now serving as the galley chief to stop them.
  • Navy Seals (1990): The SEAL platoon swim out from a submarine and stealthily board a cargo ship, looking for a stolen cache of Stinger missiles. Turns out it was a false lead.

  • Several of the novels in the Alliance/Union series by C. J. Cherryh feature ship-boarding power-armoured marines, especially among the piratical Mazianni.
    • In Merchanter's Luck, the makeshift crew has to endure a boarding, bringing back unfortunate memories for the captain of the time, as a child, when he lost most of his family.
    • Rimrunners features a former Mazianni faced with a difficult choice when the ship she's hired out on is boarded by her one-time compatriots.
  • True to its 18th-19th century Wooden Ships and Iron Men setting, the Aubrey-Maturin series is filled with boarding parties. They are every bit risky and brutal as the real thing.
  • Fred Saberhagen's Berserker stories had at least one boarding party made up of robots.
  • Chapter 17 in Cold Obsidian involves a boarding party that uses a small catamaran to sneak-attack ships in the fog.
  • The first Destroyermen novel has Captain Reddy plan to capure a Grik East Indiaman. Unfortunately, the USS Walker, a World War II destroyer, isn't designed with boarding in mind. As such, he takes a page out of the history books and has the Lemurian build him a "corvus", a boarding ramp with a spike of Roman design. His gunners then demast the Grik ship and, after coming alongside, the corvus is dropped, embedding itself in the Grik ship's deck. The first party, including Reddy himself, makes it through ok. Unfortunately, the Lemurians built the corvus out of bamboo, which breaks when the second party tries to follow. Despite this, the first party manages to fight through the ship and slaughters every single Grik, except their captain, who commits suicide. For the Grik, this is standard, as their ships lack any weapons beyond primitive firebomb catapults. They just crash their ships into the enemy and board it.
  • In The Dreamside Road, Kol Maros tries to send the boarding party to capture the Aesir, but this fails when Orson uses the energy shield to repel the attackers.
  • Deconstructed in The Expanse, which gives an entire paragraph describing how attempting to board the enemy spaceship would be actually incredibly dangerous nightmarish mission unlikely to succeed and expected to carry significant losses, especially when the enemy can decide to just blow up their vessel with you in it if they'll see you are about to succeed overtaking their defenses. The bad guys in that scene decide to go for a boarding action, because forcing the ship to self-destruct and causing tension between the setting's major political powers is their actual goal here.
  • Stephen R. Donaldson's The Gap Cycle. Angus and company are forever blasting open airlocks. And sweating.
  • In the Gor series the ships of Ar's Station subvert their boarders by boarding back with hundreds of infantrymen hidden in their holds. (Ar is a landlocked city-state, so their not-quite-colony Ar's Station on the Vosk River is not considered a sea power. They use their superior infantry to wage a land war on the river and take their enemies' better ships.)
  • The High Crusade. As it's a standard medieval navy tactic, the humans convince their alien allies to let them do this during a space battle. It works (like everything the humans do) because no-one's been crazy enough to try it before.
  • Several Horatio Hornblower stories involved boarding parties. Most boarding involved a variant called a cutting out action. This is where ships that take shelter close to shore are boarded via boats launched from a pursuing ship, usually by night to ensure stealth. There are occasionally the more familiar direct ship-to-ship boarding actions as well.
  • In one early Hoka story, a group of Hokas watch a Captain Ersatz of Flash Gordon and decide to become the Space Patrol. They steal a ship, bumble their way through space to a nearby space empire with expansionist leanings. The Hokas, flying a space yacht, fly straight into The Battle Star's docking bay and charge out, wearing suits of armor forged from spare meteorite plating. It is explicitly mentioned that the reason they won was because the people who designed The Battle Star believed that boarding parties went out of style with wooden sailing ships. And the aliens started panicking before they even saw a Hoka.
  • All over the place in Honor Harrington. Pirates boarding freighters, marines boarding pirates, customs boarding suspect smugglers, attackers boarding stations — you name it! Action (if it comes to) is quick and brutal in the ships' confined corridors, and sometimes boarders are blown out of space (mostly by panicked and not very bright defenders, as hardly anyone boards unsubdued ship in Honorverse) before boarding starts.
  • The Illuminae Files: This is used in Obsidio, where a squad is sent via a breaching pod into the Magellan to infiltrate and sabotage.
  • Parodied in Jingo. The captain of a ship that Commander Vimes has commandeered mocks his romantic notions of what boarding an enemy ship is like. He brings up the last poor soul he saw try the Cutlass Between the Teeth trick (they buried him under the name "Topless Harry"), and points out they need to throw grapnels to secure the enemy ship before boarding... and Vimes, in his haste to lighten the ship's load, had all the grapnels thrown overboard.
  • The Toralii in Lacuna tend to favour this style, even when everything seems to be going well for them in straight-out ship battles.
  • A couple of E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman novels had boarding parties in space combat. With nifty zero-G axes. Yeah!
  • In the third The Nameless War book, the cruiser Phantom launches a boarding party against a Nameless space station, with the boarders using portable airlocks to cut through the hull without depressurizing the entire station.
  • Boarding actions happened in the science fiction Planet Pirates series. Justified that the titular bad guys were slavers, and wanted to capture slaves. In one case, they were trying to capture a cruiser because it was a better ship than anything they had.
  • Right back in 1935 we have the short story "Proxima Centauri": a human ship encounters an alien vessel, which promptly sends over a hostile boarding party. They are spacefaring carnivorous plants (and we though Triffids were bad.)
  • Happens a few times in Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories. Since the vessels in question are open longships, the resultant combat tends to be face to face and exceptionally brutal.
  • Done the stealthy way in Septimus Heap, where Septimus, Jenna and the others gain back the Cerys after surreptitously climbing aboard the ship under the cover of the darkness.
  • In the climax of Ship Breaker, the protagonist Nailer and the crew of the Dauntless board the Pole-Star to rescue the kidnapped heiress Nita. Both ships are sail-powered hydrofoils with the Pole-Star being the better armed, but it ends up grounded and vulnerable on the remains of a Sunken City.
  • The third Space Wolf book, Grey Hunter, had Ragnar as part of a boarding party whose goal was to blow up a Chaos warship from the inside out. The Wolves were deployed by attaching their ship to the other one by colliding with it and boring into its side with a giant drill.
  • Star Wars Legends uses this with some frequency. However, more often than not, after a ship's engines have been hit and its communications destroyed, its crew doesn't put up much of a fight.
    • Dueling Boarding Parties are featured in the climax of Dark Force Rising, when a New Republic advance party checking out the flagship of the Katana fleet has to repel a much larger and more heavily armed Imperial force that arrives shortly afterward.
    • Wraith Squadron has an interesting variation in which they capture a Corellian Corvette by having one of their members wield a converted X-wing laser cannon and threaten to blast a hole in the bridge window from the inside.
    • Razor's Edge:
      • Imperial Commander Degoren operates out of a modified freighter, the Darsumae, to sneak into port at the Arnot space station and capture the crew of Leia's ship, the Gamble, while she's busy at the Space Pirates' clearinghouse. Leia and the Aegis, a former Alderaanian defense ship that's taken reluctantly to piracy, attack the Darsumae and use their pirating skills to lock on, board, and capture it, rescuing the Gamble crew, who promptly rename the ship Gamble II.
      • When Degoren's actual warship, an Imperial corvette, arrives in the middle of that action and takes aboard the captured Luke Skywalker, Leia, Han, Chewie, and Sian use an escape pod to board the corvette in a desperate maneuver and rescue him.
  • Temeraire is set during the Napoleonic Wars so unsurprisingly boarding parties happen quite a bit, in fact the first book starts during the middle of one. However, the series deals mostly with dragons, which also face boarding actions since taking a dragon's captain hostage guarantees that the dragon will surrender. Dragons in this setting have full crews and rigging instead of a single saddled Dragon Rider, so boarders have their work cut out for them.
  • The Tomorrow War by Alexander Zorich has both human factions doing this from the first book on. There's even a specialized assault craft. One of dirty tricks was disabling the target's Artificial Gravity early on so that proper marines get even greater advantage over a crew of recruits not even used to zero-gravity recoil.
  • One of Poul Anderson's Trader to the Stars stories has Nicholas van Rijn board an alien interstellar transport, only to find that quite WHO the crew are, is the next problem...
  • In Jack Campbell's Vanguard, the nascent colony world Glenlyon is threatened by a Buccaneer-class cutter, sent from the nearby world of Catha, which insists that the government Glenlyon pay Catha a "protection fee". With no help to be expected from either Old Earth or the old colonies, the Glenlyon Council enlists the help of Robert Geary, a former lieutenant with the Space Navy of one of the old colonies. The only spacecraft available to the colony is an unarmed freighter they have rented out for the purposes of supply delivery. Fortunately, several other colonists manage to figure out how to hack the "bucket"'s (nickname for that type of cutter) systems. Meanwhile, Geary get a group of 20 volunteers and trains them in "space jumping" - leaping from one spacecraft to another across the void of space. The hacker spoofs the "bucket"'s sensors and then cuts its engines, leaving it very close to the freighter. Geary and his "marines" jump from the freighter and manage to get aboard the cutter, taking control of it without problems. Glenlyon now has a ship (newly dubbed Squall) in its Space Navy, even if it is a rusty bucket of bolts that's a prayer away from core malfunction, with Lieutenant Geary as its commander. It's too bad Catha has two more ships, either of which is more powerful than the Squall. During the climactic battle of the book against a destroyer, Geary comes up with a Hail Mary tactic involving launching the Squall's only escape pod towards the enemy during the next pass. The destroyer's automated defenses will naturally try to shoot it down, but most of the pod's mass will still impact the destroyer's shields as debris, with the Squall following up with a barrage from her meager weapons. The wild plan works, although the Squall is still heavily damaged during the pass with the core beginning to overload. With the enemy ship disabled, Geary brings the Squall up alongside her and has his crew jumps to the destroyer before triggering a timed program to move the Squall as far away as possible before her core blows. This time, the enemy is well aware of the boarders and puts up a fight, resulting in a sizable chunk of Geary's crew dying, including his Number Two. The destroyer itself is deemed too damaged to be usable, but the win buys Glenlyon enough time to buy some ships from Old Earth.
  • Happens several times through the course of Vatta's War. More often than not, to Kylara Vatta's ship. The first time, they are boarded by a Private Military Contractor who has been hired to put down a rebellion and to act temporarily as Law Enforcement, Inc.. Kylara and her crew, not looking for a fight, comply to the boarding and searching, except for one character who ignores Ky's orders to stand down and attempts to fight back, nearly getting Ky killed in the crossfire. Later, an attempt to board is made by a disavowed and deranged cousin of her father's, and they have none of that. After Ky's ship is disabled in a brief spacebattle, Uncle Osmond makes it as far as the airlock (with a bomb in tow), where Ky manages to kill him with a knife.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Magog on Andromeda use Swarm Ships to punch holes in the attacked ship and swarm in.
  • Babylon 5
    • Babylon 5 was boarded by Earth troops invading via hull breach at the start of the Earth Alliance Civil War.
    • And they would be invaded via that tactic again by an unnamed alien race in "A View From The Gallery".
    • The good guys use this tactic themselves to sneak aboard Babylon 4 in "War Without End".
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • In the original series, Apollo and Starbuck use a captured Cylon Raider to infiltrate and sabotage a Cylon Base Star, allowing the Galactica to engage and destroy it easily with her bow-mounted BFGs.
    • In the reimagined series, the Battlestar was boarded by a Cylon heavy raider crashing into her abandoned starboard flight pod in "Valley of Darkness." In the series finale, they board a large Cylon base both by infiltrating with Raptors, as well as by ramming the Galactica through the side of the station and boarding directly from there.
  • In Blake's 7, the original team is formed when, having lost several of his own men exploring a deserted alien ship, the commander of the prison ship sends a boarding party comprised of prisoners. Not like that's going to go wrong.
  • Mini Series Hornblower:
    • "The Even Chance": Horatio misses his first opportunity to participate in a boarding party because he is taking a member of his division to the ship's surgeon. His friend Archie didn't miss it and enthusiastically asks Horatio if he saw him kill two enemies, or one certainly, excited, bloodied and being a Badass Adorable par excellence.
    • "The Even Chance": The crew from Indefatigable boards French ship Papillon. They succeed, however, both their lieutenants die and Midshipman Jack Simpson tries to murder both Archie and Horatio during the raid.
    • "The Examination for the Lieutenant": Horatio and Captain Foster board a fire ship that was about to burn the Indefatigable down. Horatio manages to get to her helm and changes her course.
    • "The Devil and the Duchess": Horatio and his division successfully board a French ship, but when they are taking her to England as a prize of war, they accidentally get in the middle of a Spanish fleet, and they are boarded themselves.
    • "Retribution": Horatio was ordered to command three Spanish ships — they were prize of war. However, the imprisoned Spaniards managed to take Renown, and Horatio and his men managed to board her just in time to help their shipmates win the fight.
  • The Destiny was boarded by hostile aliens in Stargate Universe by cutting holes through the hull, which came into play later when the ship was overtaken by the Lucian Alliance.
  • Thanks to their use of Teleportation, this should be a source of constant Paranoia Fuel in Star Trek, where it is shown that transporters can drop enemy troops down right next to a target aboard another ship, be it a specific key system, or an important passenger or crew member (Captain Picard was abducted this way in "Best Of Both Worlds"). Thankfully, it is shown to be relatively straightforward to shield against this tactic, assuming the enemy is unable to disable your shields in combat or via subterfuge. Although even the shields being proof against transporters has exceptions: If you know the other ship's shield emitter frequency, it is easy enough to bypass them, although this is evidently hard to know if you haven't been aboard the other ship to check. On another occasion, an away team is able to fly a shuttle through an enemy ship's shields before using the transporter (they got away with it because they were considered an insignificant threat by the enemy). In one case, a 29th century transporter is able to cut right through 24th century shields as if they are nothing.
  • Happens almost Once an Episode in Sea Patrol, often for mundane reasons like conducting customs or safety inspections but occasionally for a "mysteriously deserted ship found adrift, Send in the Search Team to find out what happened" mystery plot.

  • Since the song is about attacking and looting other ships, Running Wild's "Under Jolly Roger" ends with pirates boarding their latest victim.

  • Destroy the Godmodder: The Star Destroyer that got summoned in Act 3 was boarded by three different armies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Berserker game (based on Fred Saberhagen's stories) had boarding parties of both robots and humans.
  • Boarding Party had a team of humans blasting their way into an automated alien starship and fighting a crew of robots.
  • Dystopian Wars uses (too small to model at this scale) rocket-launched infantry to perform boarding actions, and they can launch from ships, landships or airships.
  • Lux Aeternum: Boarding parties are the normal way to settle starship combat. Justified in that the control core of an FTL-capable starship is priceless, and a Beam Spam would probably destroy it.
  • Pirates Constructible Strategy Game; boarding is a free action conducted after a ship has rammed an enemy ship during a move action. Players roll off and add the result to the number of masts still remaining on their ship- winner either steals a treasure from the loser or kills one of their crew. Some ships and crew can board enemies from range rather than having to ram, and others have additional abilities that allow them to damage the ship further or massacre the entire crew compliment instead of killing just one.
  • Star Fleet Battles had rules for boarding parties, which could damage specific sections of or even capture enemy ships.
  • Traveller has boarding parties. It is sometimes done to secure crippled ships.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Given how many factions prefer melee combat despite being no slouches in the interplanetary guns department, this was inevitable. The orks basically use a vacuum-protected box with a pointy end and engines on the non-pointy end, while Space Marines have the Caestus Assault Ram, which is a flying magna-melta that fires a wall-softening shot before ramming into the now-weakened area and unloading its specially-trained crew.
    • In the waning days of 9th edition, Games Workshop introduced the Boarding Action game mode. These are smaller games (usually in the 500 point range, compared to a full 2,000 point game) meant to be played on maps with tight corners and narrow hallways, with a trimmed down ruleset to better replicate smaller bands boarding ships and derelicts to battle one another.
    • Battlefleet Gothic: Many ships are equipped with special boarding capsules, akin to escape pods, but wire-guided and able to bore into the enemy ship's armor which are typically launched broadside. In practice, boarding actions are relatively rare, however, due to the ranges involved in space combat, and the size of the ships. One does feature prominently in 40k's forgettable attempt to break into the First-Person Shooter market, Fire Warrior, however. There is also a second kind of boarding action, using so called "Assault Pods". They are launched like a squadron of fighters, and can make an attack. Of course, since these ships are crewed by thousands and thousands of people, in general, it's about causing damage rather than actually taking over the ships.
    • Deathwatch: The Marines Errant Space Marine Chapter specializes in boarding operations and their solo mode allows them ignore zero-gravity penalties, while their squad mode ability makes them to fight better in tight spaces (like a corridors of a ship), their special equipment consists of the naval boltgun, a boltgun modified to be lighter and used in confined space, while their contribution to the reliquarium is the Linebreaker, an ancient shotgun (a weapon usually used by Space Marine Scouts, but can become highly effective in close-quarters), and their chapter-specific advances include piloting space crafts, stellar navigation and closer relations with the Imperial Navy.
    • Rogue Trader: The rak'gol specialize in boarding action. Their ships launch exclusively boarding torpedoes, and their hangars carry only assault boats. They almost never flee, and will continue to send boarders until either they or their enemies are all dead.
    • Space Hulk and its Video Game derivatives (including Space Marine) are all about this trope, focusing on a small squad of Space Marine Terminators boarding the titular Space Hulk in search of relics and other objects of interest while having to battle against hordes of Genestealers that call the place home.

    Video Games 
  • Airships: Conquer the Skies: You can install barrack modules in your airship or landship. A squad of air marines, arachnids, or air grenadiers will be assigned to your ship depending on the type of the barrack. Arachnid and air grenadier in particular are equipped with grappling hooks, which allows them to board enemy ships from a greater distance.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Assassin's Creed III: Happens in a couple of naval battles, usually when someone on an enemy ship needs to be interrogated. To do it, you have to destroy any other ships attacking while keeping the target ship afloat. Then, you have to switch to Chain Shots, loading your cannons with chains that are shot in an arc to break the ship's mast, which of course leaves it as a giant hunk of wood in the water. Then you approach, and you and your crew jump on. Cue a massive, widespread battle on the deck. Special mention goes to the Battle of Chesapeake Bay: At the end, the cannons are destroyed after a Man O' War hits the ship full blast with its broadside cannons. Without missing a beat, Connor rams into the Man O' War and boards it alone. He kills dozens of men, including the captain, before blowing the ship to bits by shooting the gunpowder reserves and jumping back to his ship. Without a doubt one of the most awesome moments in the game.
    • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag has even more of this with nearly 40% of the game taking place on the high seas, and not limited to specific missionsnote . This time, the character replayed by the Animus is Connor's grandfather, a pirate/Assassin named Edward Kenway. According to one of the trailers, Blackbeard claims that he once saw Kenway clear the deck of a Spanish galleon by himself without breaking a sweat. Better yet, this is not only entirely, legitimately possible in gameplaynote , but possibly even easier than taking on that ship in regular naval combat!
    • Assassin's Creed Rogue also has boarding. However, the game now also allows enemy ships to board you, and your ship doesn't even have to be crippled for that, just rammed.
  • Buck Rogers games:
    • Can be accomplished with Random Encounters in Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday and its sequel, Matrix Cubed once an enemy ship has been disabled, either by destroying its control system or its engines. A variety of scenarios can take place once aboard the enemy ship, from the crew setting the self destruct for you to try to disable, to an ambush by a much larger ship, to the commander of the ship ordering the crew to kill all the prisoners if you get too close (which you can then rescue to help take over the ship.) Could also lead to Money for Nothing as the ships can be worth a ton of money for your salvage account, which is used for all ship repairs, plus whatever loot you get from battling the enemy crew.
    • Happens again towards the end of Buck Rogers: Matrix Cubed when enemy forces take control of a living ship and begin assaulting the mining platform you are on. You are given the option of sending a single party member up to the ship to try to take it back. Better hope the random number generator is in a good mood.
  • Escape Velocity: This is the method by which enemy ships are captured. The chance of success depends on how many crew the boarding and boarded vessels have. a relative "power" rating for the ships in question, and the presence (and number) of any "Marine Platoon" outfits equipped on the boarding ship.
  • Fire Emblem titles whose storylines require sailing often have encounters at sea played out with boarding planks connecting the ships. Both sides often use flying units to bypass those chokepoints.
  • A frequent mode of attack in FTL: Faster Than Light. Enemies with teleporters will often send their crew to attack your ship, or launch drones containing attack robots to breach your hull. These same tools can be used by the player if their ship has them, and many designs are specifically designed around a boarding strategy. Some of the most potent ones having four person teleporters instead of two such as The Basilisk Mantis cruiser variant or a special, mystery ship. This is a Difficult, but Awesome strategy, often requiring extremely careful micro of your marines to deal with enemies that can outnumber you, have access to healing, can cut off your retreat by cloaking or shooting your teleporter, and won't stop shooting your ship just because you're on theirs; however, it yields much better after-combat rewards and requires little power, letting you focus your resources on defense. A well-directed boarding crew can absolutely shred the final boss with little more support than a single bomb/missile to take out the enemy med bay in the first phase.
  • From the Depths: One of the options open to the player is jump onto the enemy ship to capture it or destroy it from within. Capturing can be done by locating and destroying all AI Cores on the ship; destroying the final core will result in the craft becoming part of the player's fleet. Craft currently have no internal defenses and will only fire on vehicles, but one must still overcome the vehicle's internal repair systems, and care must be taken not to be killed by incoming fire from your own fleet when boarding.
  • The Halo series is quite fond of this tactic:
    • Halo: Combat Evolved's first level involves fighting off hordes of Covenant forces boarding your ship. A later level has you and your allies boarding a Covenant ship in order to rescue your captain.
    • Halo 2's first level again involves fighting off multiple Covenant boarding parties.
    • In Halo Wars, one level has you fighting off Flood attempting to board the Spirit of Fire. The very next level has you fighting off Covenant boarders instead.
    • Halo: Reach has the player board and plant a slipspace bomb inside a Covenant corvette.
    • Halo 4 starts with the Chief being woken up from cryosleep after Covenant remnants start boarding his ship. Later, both Chief in the main campaign and Fireteam Crimson in Spartan Ops have to help the Infinity fight off Covenant and Promethean boarders.
  • Homeworld 2 includes assault parties breaking into enemy ships via beaming and hull-breaching infiltrator pods.
  • Infinite Space requires the player to board a few ships for story purposes, and it's also an option in most fights. It's played out as a giant melee of all surviving crew from all ships still on the field.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising has Pit boarding the Space-Pirate Ship by means of Palutena locating a weakness in the hull and ramming him into it at flight speed.
  • Knights of the Old Republic begins with the Sith boarding the ship aboard which is the player character.
  • The Mandate has this option for character skills and a primary combat mechanic.
  • Marauders: The main method for players to enter a Point-of-Interest. You may dock your entire main spacecraft into a hanger properly and then be able to return to it later for extraction, or in an emergency situation - utilize an Escape Pod to violently breach an enemy craft.
  • Mass Effect
    • Part of a main mission in Mass Effect 2. A particularly interesting case, as the ship in question is not only huge, it's supposedly, but not really disabled, and just so happens to be the very same ship that killed you and your ship in the beginning of the game, two years ago (and is the ship you encountered on Horizon) as you find out during the mission. A few side missions also feature this, but the ship in question is almost always disabled or derelict; the MSV Broken Arrow is probably the best example here, given that the reason you are boarding is to kill the last set of boarders and reactivate the engine before it crashes into a major population centre on the world it's orbiting.
      • In a side quest you board a ship called the Strontium Mule and fight through multiple decks to liberate it from the Blue Suns, who’ve previously boarded and captured it. As you fight through, you find evidence of horrific torture inflicted on the crew by the Blue Suns. Later, your opponents even refuse to reinforce each other so they can keep the loot for themselves, allowing you to Divide and Conquer them.
      • Late in the game, The Normandy is boarded by the Collectors while Shepard is away.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Shepard and co. storm an enormous geth dreadnought to disable a mysterious Reaper "control signal" that's coordinating the whole fleet. Combat is very much a hectic matter in a series of long corridors, while trying to reach the signal and not get boxed in by the vast numerical superiority of the geth. In one case, in order to escape a lockdown, the team runs down the maintenance walkways of the main gun, and briefly across the firing rails (if you're too slow, you get shot into space). Also, the fleet battle is very much ongoing, and as the mission progresses, your allies start coordinating fire on the ship over your obvious objections. If you like, Shepard can be diplomatic about this, or slug Admiral Gerrel in the stomach.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda Ryder and the Pathfinder team get to board multiple ships to reclaim them. You board and reclaim the asari and salarian ark ships from Kett boarders. In the process of rescuing the salarian ark, you board a Kett flagship and purloin a crucial artifact. You board the turian ark too, but this ends up being an easy milk run of a mission.
  • Ships and stations can be boarded in Master of Orion II through several means. Marines can be ordered to attempt to take over the ship or simply do as much damage as they can.
    • The most common way is approaching a target with disabled engines. Ships equipped with transporters can beam marines if the facing shield is down. Assault shuttles can also be used to board a ship or a station, which have no mobility or shield requirements, but take time to get there and can be shot by point-defences like missiles.
    • In either case, they may end up triggering the Self-Destruct Mechanism. Optimization for boarding is still a fairly powerful strategy, because capturing ships allows reverse-development of technologies required to build them. A successful raid on a smallest Antaran ship early on — not that it was easy — may be a near-Game-Breaker.
  • The Space Pirates of Metroid typically board enemy ships via a small pod packed with explosives and Pirates ramming directly into the ship's hull. The survivors (if any) are then free to raid the ship.
  • This is the main and most convenient method of defeating an enemy ship in Pixel Piracy, your crew firing grappling hooks and shimmying over the water to fight on the enemy ship. However, this is much more risky than other methods, and early on poses a very big threat for your fledgling, invaluable crew.
  • Crippling a flagship in Pirates of the Caribbean Online allows a crew to grapple it in and board it, engaging in a melee fight against that ship's crew for bonus loot.
  • In Sid Meier's Pirates!, you can board enemy ships and defeat their captains in order to capture them and their valuable cargoes.
  • After commandeering a pirate ship in Bloodbath Bay, the gang in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves can use it to attack other ships, and board them for booty.
  • Space Empires 4 has boarding as a researchable vehicle upgrade. It allows you to take over ships. (Psionic races can skip it and just get a mind control device.)
  • The Orz Nemesis ship in Star Control 2 releases space marines to board the enemy ship as its secondary attack.
  • Star Ruler has "Boarding pods", which fire boarding pods at the enemy, allowing you to take over enemy ships if you have more soldiers than they have crew. The size of the boarding pod launcher in the ship designer determines how many soldiers are in it - it's possible to get boarding pods fitting over ten thousand soldiers.
  • All ships and stations in Star Trek: Armada equipped with transporters can board the enemy as long as their shields are down. Klingons have a ship that can launch breaching pods that ignore shields. The Borg are especially adept at this, given their tendency to assimilate anything remotely useful. Assimilated ships show distinctly Borg-like characteristics (i.e. green lattice on the hull). The second game also adds a ship class specifically designed for ship capture. They fire their weapons until the target's shields are down and then immediately start transporting troops. Species 8472 can neither board nor be boarded, as all their ships have a crew of one.
  • Star Trek Online has several story missions where the player must either board an enemy ship or fight off enemy boarders. In addition, the Engineering skill "Boarding Party" launches shuttles full of redshirts who'll apply a debuff to ships they successfully board. Being redshirts, they can be shot down en route.
  • Being based on the Star Fleet Battles example below, Star Trek: Starfleet Command had boarding parties that could destroy components or capture ships.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: In the aptly named flashpoint "Boarding party" you do this trope to a republic ship. Also, this being a Star Wars game, there are several other instances of this trope in the course of gameplay. Typically, each class story has at least one instance of a boarding party.
  • In SteamWorld Heist, your Ragtag Bunch of Misfits routinely boards enemy spaceships. The typical mission format is: your ship docks with the mission target (a ship or a station), depositing the party your have selected. Your ship then undocks and gets the hell out of Dodge, as it lacks any weapons. After the mission objectives are completed, the game reveals the location of the door that leads to the Escape Pod. Getting to the door with your surviving bots is required to complete the mission. The bots are then shown flying to your ship in the escape pod. The pod docks, deposits your bots, and leaves. For bonus points, the theme song for the game is "Prepare for Boarding" by Steam Powered Giraffe. The ship leaving is lampshaded by a character at one point, causing the pilot to point out that it's more important for the ship to remain intact rather than that bot.
  • In Sword of the Stars, ships equipped with boarding pods can attempt to capture enemy ships. This can get to the ridiculous extent that a single boarding pod that makes it through the point-defense fire can take over a ship full of thousands of crewmembers. The Zuul, being scavengers, are masters of this trope and get the technology for free when they gain access to cruisers, whereas other races must research it separately.
  • Templar Battleforce: The tutorial mission involves a xeno space ship crashing into the your templar ship for this purpose. Your mission consists of first fighting off the invaders, then following them back through the hull breech into their ship to escort a nuke to its center.
  • In the three Total War games that feature naval combat (Empire, Napoleon, Shogun 2), boarding is a valid tactic for capturing enemy ships. This is more important in Shogun 2, where most ships lack cannons and rely on archers and marines to win battles. Ships will usually employ grapping hooks when near their target, which will start the boarding action. The Wooden Ships and Iron Men version in Empire and Napoleon has gangplanks.
    • "The Fall of the Samurai" expansion for Shogun 2 brings the action to the 19th century with steamships and ironclads. While boarding is still possible, it's very difficult and, largely, unnecessary. It's almost impossible to board ironclads.
    • Total War: Rome II returns the action to Ancient naval battles with oar-powered ships whose main weapon is the ram, although boarding is also common.
  • Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon uses this as a game mechanic. If one equips their ship with Harpoon Guns, they can be used to create grapple lines to pull in enemy ships. Once a grappled ship is close enough, the player can send the ship's designated boarding party onto it. The enemy ship will attempt to repel with their own boarding party, represented as a two-way health bar. Each side's health is based on their boarding party's overall strength, and fatigue. Should the defenders lose, the ship is taken over, and joins the fleet of the attacking ship.
  • Warframe presents two different examples of this:
    • In Grineer vs. Corpus Invasion Missions, both sides show differing methods of boarding the others' ships: The Grineer launch pods that crash through the Corpus ships, whilst the Corpus prefer to simply beam a team aboard the Grineer Galleons.
    • The "Empyrean" update introduced Railjacks, powerful space-bound vessels the Tenno can construct to do missions within the proxima of different planets. During many skirmish missions, the Grineer can launch Ramsleds that will crash into the player's Railjack to deploy a party. During the "Orphix Venom" event, the Sentients can launch their own pods to allow Conculysts and Battlysts onto the Railjack.
  • Players in X3: Terran Conflict can train marines to board enemy capital ships. The marines will spacewalk towards the targeted ship, and will cut open the hull if the shields are down. The player can also load the marines into a Boarding Pod and fire them at the ship like a missile, which accomplishes the same thing but makes it easier for them to cut into the hull and is less likely to result in them being gunned down in open space. The marines will radio in their status as they move through the ship's decks towards the ship computer core, gunning down the crew and automated turrets before attempting to hack the ship. Boarding originally debuted in the Xtended Game Mod for X3: Reunion, where it could only be initiated from the purpose-built OTAS Heavy Capture Frigate, which returned as the cripplingly overspecialized OTAS Sirokos in Terran Conflict.
    • Boarding returns in X: Rebirth, where the Albion Skunk can launch up to 50 marines and one marine commander in individual boarding pods at enemy craft. The Skunk's copilot will call out targets on the hull of the enemy capital ship to be destroyed to weaken the internal defenses and prevent the ship from fleeing.
  • Xenonauts: Arguably the most important element of the game is assaulting downed or landed alien ships to disrupt their missions and capture their valuable equipment.
    • XCOM: Enemy Unknown does the same, but also features a more classic boarding party in the Slingshot DLC (boarding an in-flight Battleship to force it to land intact) and in the final mission, boarding the Temple Ship to kill the Uber Ethereal.

  • In Girl Genius the Mopey Tortoise gets boarded by two parties on it's way to England, first a group of Smoke Knights looking to kidnap Tarvek and return him to the Matriarch of his Big, Screwed-Up Family and second by his cousin Martellus' Knights of the Hunt and personal assassin looking to kill Tarvek. After Martellus' group boards the Smoke Knights team up with the not-pirates whose ship they boarded to keep Tarvek alive.
  • Since the crew from Runners are scavengers and smugglers, and they also meet Space Pirates on much more regular basis that they'd want to, this tends to happen.
  • As a Space Opera about mercenaries, this trope comes up pretty often in Schlock Mercenary. During the Shufgar arc, the phrase "Boarding Party Favors" was coined to refer to the equipment for a job like this.
    Ennesby: You've got the ones where you pull the string and they go 'bang', right?
    Kevyn: Grenades? Yes. And funny hats, too.

    Visual Novels 
  • Double Homework gives an unorthodox example. The protagonist and Morgan, who missed the launch for the former’s party on a yacht, steal a jet ski and catch up with the boat.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: In the two-part finale to Season 3, ISIS is hired to help when the International Space Station Horizon is supposedly occupied by a mutinous faction of its crew. The ISIS crew lands on the station in the shuttle Intrepid and attempts to assault the station, but it goes poorly and they are captured. The mutineers then attempt to board the shuttle to capture Malory, Pam, and Cheryl. Cheryl, amusingly, thinks that a “Boarding Party” is an actual party.
  • DuckTales (2017): "Sky Pirates... in the Sky!" introduces Don Karnage. A ruthless sky pirate captain who uses his airship and crew to rob airborne planes. He robs Scrooge and company to the tune of catchy music and leaves just as quickly as he arrived. He is also notable due to the fact that he was largely successful in doing so. Even after all is said and done, Scrooge was only able to reclaim a hatful of the stolen treasure.
  • The Star Wars: The Clone Wars series has done this on several occasions. Notably, the Confederacy has dedicated boarding craft that pierce the hull of an enemy ship and dispense battle droids, and on one occasion, Anakin has to improvise and use walkers as a substitute, as his ship had failed to bring any.


Video Example(s):


"Prepare to board!"

Ship damaged beyond repair? Just replace it with one of theirs!

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Example of:

Main / BoardingParty

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