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Boarding Pod

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An easier way to get the party started.

"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 (though sometimes these are repurposed for boarding), and Ramming Always Works for a more direct form of attack.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Gall Force II has Solonoid fighters designed to penetrate the shields of Paranoid ships and fire pods containing Powered Armor-wearing cyborgs into them at close range.
  • In Outlaw Star, the titular ship has an extendable boarding tube in its nose that can be used to punch through the armor of an enemy ship while grappling it and let Gene go aboard in order to confront its crew in person. He uses it on two separate occasions. The single-seat fighters used by pirates are sometimes seen trying to attach themselves to enemy ships using harpoons, presumable in order to let them board (but they're always destroyed before they can do anything of the sort).

    Comic Books 
  • 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 page picture comes from the Star Wars Legends companion comics to The Force Unleashed II, in which an unidentified TIE variant fires several of these to get Terror Troopers aboard the Rebel frigate Salvation.
  • 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.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Wonder Woman's rebels are seen using small sharp nosed vessels with clamp arms to board a Sangtee Empire ship after their tech crew ensures the Empire ships can't detect the approaching rebel fleet. The Empire only realizes they're under attack once their ships are breached and boarded.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The F-117X "Remora" aircraft from Executive Decision has elements of this, being able to silently inject a boarding party into a flying jetliner. The system doesn't work perfectly — one of the team gets killed when they're thrown out in mid-air after the connection is broken.
  • In The Last Jedi, Rey uses one of the Millennium Falcon's escape pods to board Snoke's ship, Supremacy.
  • 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).
  • 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.

  • The Machineries of Empire: The Hexarchate forces use those to deliver their Shuos infiltrators, propaganda and drones into the enemy fortress.
  • 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.
  • Reborn as a Space Mercenary: I Woke Up Piloting the Strongest Starship!: The "suppression ship" introduced in volume 4 is a vehicle consisting of little more than a crew compartment, an engine, and a Nigh-Invulnerable Deflector Shield (Hiro hits it with an Alpha Strike from the Krishna and can't even dent it), as well as a shield neutralizer module to punch through opposing shields. It's designed to send a Boarding Party aboard opposing capital ships for sabotage operations; Balthazar Daleinwald uses it to board Count Abraham Daleinwald's mothership in an attempt to Dungeon Bypass the fleet the Count gathered to fend off his younger son's attempted Military Coup and settle matters with a Duel to the Death.
  • Red Rising: Star Shells are massive armored pods launched at ships and planets.
  • 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.
  • Starsnatcher: In this setting, boarding pods are torpedo-shaped crafts with explosive tips to punch through enemy hulls. The crews are immersed in a viscous gel that cushions impact forces. The pods are only deployed once the enemy ship is too damaged for defensive maneuvers. To protect the crews from point defenses, it is standard to spam unmanned probes shielding the manned ones.
  • The Thrawn Trilogy: A variant appears in Heir to the Empire. 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.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • 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 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 third Space Wolf novel has an exaggerated case: a Wolves warship attacks a Chaos warship with an "assault ram", whereby the entire ship becomes a boarding pod. The Wolves use a ramming attack aided by a giant neutronium drill to penetrate the other ship's armored hull and allow their infantry to board.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • Used for covert infiltration in "The Gathering" when a Minbari assassin uses a one-man breaching pod (he was originally going to use a changeling net to alter his appearance and just enter B5 normally, but had to change his plans).
    • In "Severed Dreams", President Clark's forces use boarding pods in their attempt to retake the station from the heroes. They turn up a couple other times as well. As a side note, the Earth Force breaching pods share some obvious design traits with the Starfuries, implying that the two share a basic underlying design. This makes sense when you think about it a bit, because a boarding pod would have basically the same maneuvering requirements as a starfighter, just not as intense.
  • In the finale of Battlestar Galactica (2003), the entire Galactica is 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 the hull prior to cutting in with torches.
  • The Expanse:
    • In "CQB", The Conspiracy's stealth ships target the Martian battleship Donnager with breaching pods after they're forced to shut down their engines due to battle damage. Captain Yao triggers the ship's Self-Destruct Mechanism before the boarders are able to breach the bridge.
    • In "Critical Mass", a breaching pod is shown in action when the Anubis attacks the Scopuli.
    • In "Doors and Corners", the OPA rig up some field-expedient breaching pods out of cargo containers for the assault on Spin Station that are regarded as deathtraps — a "beer can taped to a rocket" with no means of defense other than what the Rocinante can provide.
  • Farscape: In "PK Tech Girl", Sheyang Space Pirates launch one-man versions from a giant rotary launcher on their vessel, through only one is able to penetrate the Deflector Shields of the vessel they are attacking.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In "Maneuvers", the Kazon use a shuttle with a modified bow to smash through Voyager's hull so they can steal some of its advanced technology, much to the surprise of their Native Guide 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.
    • In "Fury", a Vidiian cruiser attempting to board Voyager latches onto it with huge grappling cables that cut through the hull. Voyager tears off a section of hull while breaking free.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In 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.
  • 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.
  • Lancer: Battlegroup has Lamprey Boarding Torpedoes, which latch onto enemy ships, detonate a small shaped warhead to breach the hull, and unleash a squad of robotic marines designed to survive the G-forces. There are also larger marine landers that carry organic troops but are more like ships in their own right, and PGR "gourd" limpets that are filled with Gray Goo (which acts like a boarding party). But since it's a spin-off of a mech combat game, the most popular boarding option by far are chassis mounted mechs with detachable drives and wings so they can act as fighters on their way to boarding.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Space Marines tend to prefer fighting space battles through boarding actions, since being Super Soldiers doesn't do them much good in a Standard Starship Scuffle. As such, they have several varieties:
      • They often 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.
      • The Astartes 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.
    • Tyranid mycetic spores work as either Drop Pods or boarding pods.
    • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light, you or your enemies can launch boarding drones, an Attack Drone that pierces the hull and automatically starts destroying/killing everything in its path. They're very hard to kill, being as tough as the Rockmen with the offensive capabilities of a Mantis, and if they are killed the ship can just fire another. In the Advanced Edition, ion drones also exist, which shut down systems and stun crewmembers. Getting regular crew over is done by transporters.
  • The Garry's Mod gamemode Spacebuild has assault pods that can launch players into enemy spaceships.
  • 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.
  • Heat Signature: All the available vessels are variations of these, which can quietly plug into a ship's airlock without alerting any systems and let the pilot board the ship for covert operations. Only one of them can actually breach ships to board them through the hole, but needless to say, this is less than subtle and immediately raises alarms.
  • These are launched by Vaygr Infiltrator Frigates in Homeworld 2. Their Hiigaran counterpart, the Marine Frigate, is a Drop Ship instead.
  • In stage 2 of MDK2, 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).
  • 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.
  • The Suicide Cannon and Armored Grunt Shuttle in Space Pirates and Zombies allow for boarding actions. While the shuttle is an assault boat, the cannon fires a modified Escape Pod that drills through an enemy hull. However, since escape pods are so fragile in this setting, it's better not to bother with it.
  • Star Trek: Armada has Klingon SuQ'Jagh assault ships that can launch boarding pods capable of penetrating any shields.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In The Force Unleashed II, Starkiller witnesses the boarding action shown in the page image, from inside the ship being boarded.
    • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
      • At the start of Knights of the Fallen Empire, Darth Marr's flagship is boarded by Eternal Empire skytroopers using pods launched from their warships. In the third mission of Knights of the Eternal Throne, the Player Character returns the favor when Vaylin attempts to capture the Gravestone, using a boarding pod to get aboard from an Alliance cruiser and retake the ship.
      • The "Mandalorian Raiders" flashpoint features the PCs (or the Alliance Commander and their companion in single-player mode) using Escape Pods as field-expedient boarding pods to travel between a trio of renegade Mandalorian ships attacking their ally Shae "Mandalore the Avenger" Vizla's flagship.
  • 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.
  • In Warframe, the Grineer make use of "Ramsleds", which are capable of punching through the hulls of both Corpus and Tenno ships to deploy a full squad inside. When siding with the Grineer in Invasion missions, the player may get an opportunity to use one themselves at the level's midpoint. Generally, any ship larger than a fighter will be able to deploy at least one Ramsled. The Corpus and Tenno also make use of boarding parties when in pitched space combat, but handle the delivery of said parties differently (Portals for the Corpus, and either phasing through the hull or entering through the airlock for the Tenno and simply slingshotting their frames through the hulls of ships).
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Naturally present in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. The Justified Tutorial has the player's Imperial cruiser use its boarding torpedoes to send troops aboard a space station that has been taken over by Chaos. The feature returns in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 in a variety of forms. Regular boarding assaults deploy swarms of single-use pods to deliver their payload, ships with launch bays can unleash squadrons of assault boats for boarding actions at long range,note  and Adeptus Astartes ships can use unique boarding torpedoes with slight homing capabilities that're launched from torpedo tubes. Each method varies in its range, the number of troops it deploys, as well as the type of countermeasures it has to defeat to reach its target.
    • One part of Fire Warrior has Shas'la Kais fighting off Imperial Guard stormtroopers who entered an Emissary-class cruiser with these.
    • The Space Hulk video game 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.
  • Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom has the Manned Insertion Pod, which is loaded into your ship's missile bay, to be fired at a ship that your space infantry needs to board and get something from, rather than simply blowing it up.
  • X:
    • 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 has a Crippling Overspecialization). 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.

    Web Animation 
  • Astartes opens with an Impulsor Squad of Retributor Astartes boarding a rebel spacecraft via a Caestus Assault Ram, including a POV of the Ram itself up to the moment of impact with the hull.

  • In Schlock Mercenary, Petey has been known to use this tactic on occasion. The equipment they use is generally referred to as "boarding party favors," and it's one of the mercenaries' favorite jobs.
    Schlock: Can we throw a boarding party?
    Breya: Do not let them throw a boarding party.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Boarding Torpedo, Breaching Pod