10 September 2022

What Will We Fight Over: The Last Bastion

Within the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, there is a well-used concept that has been used to inspire, terrify, and provoke strong emotions in both the audience and the characters within the story. That concept has the enemy at the gates of the final fortress and that all hope lays within the walls of that fortress to prevent the end of civilization as we know it. This concept is know as "the last bastion" and it has been seen in the Lord of the Rings as Minas Tirith, Helm's Deep,  the hidden city of Gondolin, city of Atlantis in Stargate Atlantis, and in the Last City in Destiny. In this installment of What We Will Fight Over, FWS will be exploring the sci-fi/fantasy examples of the last bastion as well as real-world examples. We will also be exploring if we will fight over this and why it is such a compelling narratives for audiences and creators. 

What is the Concept of the "Last Bastion"?
The Last Bastion concept and/or the Trope is when the characters have their collective backs (and ass) to the wall and what stands between them and the apocalypse, is the walls of their last bastion. This last bastion could be an underground city, a fallout shelter, walled city, warship, space station, or a hidden city or place that is obscured via magic or a portal. Given this, the Last Bastion concept can take on different forms depending on the setting. In the realm of fantasy, the Last Bastion is often a castle and/or fortress that is the fallback position when the enemy comes riding up as seen in the real-world after the founding of the first cities and especially after the fall of Rome. It is a place that is defensible and can be used as a shelter for the civilian population. In the science fiction setting, it is much more varied. 
It can be the last warship defending a civilian fleet, or that last warship is defending the homeworld from invasion as seen (and very much overused as a plot device) in the Space Cruiser Yamato franchise. This was used to excellent results and dramatic tension in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica series. In the realm of sci-fi, this Last Bastion could be the last colonial world were the last of a species is holding up as seen in the classic Doctor Who. Or it could be the last city as seen in Destiny and the Matrix films. Also popular is the last colony ship or a space station. Another common abuser of the Last Bastion trope is the post-apocalyptic genre. It does not matter if it is a nuclear war, pandemic(!), rise of the zombie , or the dreaded red hat virus…the seems to be a last bastion of human survivors holding on the canned goods and the precious juice. 
During these post-judgement day scenarios, the last bastion is often the last survivors holding to the few remains of the world that was and shall never be again. This is seen in the Mad Max films with Barter Town and the outback refinery. At times, these sanctuaries of humanity can be the true horror as seen the Fallout vaults or a cannibal colony attracting fresh meat by cloaking their true nature. It is seen in Fury Road, where the last bastions are used to bring death and pain to the unlike survivors that drift into the realm of the Immortal Joe. There have been many RPG scenarios were the heroes wandering into a stronghold only to be more trouble that if they had avoided theses sanctuaries. This was also seen in Logan’s Run as well.  

Why is the Last Bastion Concept so Popular in Sci-Fi/Fantasy?
Given the number of famous examples seen in the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, the question asks itself: why is this concept so popular? The reason is because of how damn compelling it is for both the audience and the characters. The pressure and dramatic tension that is placed on the audience and the characters allow for a creator to fuel their fiction to a higher degree. The compelling nature of the Last Bastion allows for emotions to impact harder, for the battle to be that much legendary, and for the tales of the battle to be more worthy of song. How many tales of warriors and battles are devoted to the last stand of the few against the many? It seems that the most celebrated battles in Victoria Britain period are last stands like 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Then there are the examples from mythology that provide some of the reason for the popularity of the Last Bastion concept, such as the Noah's ark myth and King Arthur's Camelot. Layered into the collective experiences of our species is the mythological stories of valiant warriors and brave survivors of apocalypses level events and the last bastions where the remains of humanity rose to retake their lands. We seen this with the collective Great Flood stories that populate many mythological traditions. Again, this concept was so compelling to those early lore masters that they included into the mythological foundations of their lore and identity.   

Will We Fight for the Last Bastion of Human?
We already have and we will likely again. At some point in the prehistoric period as modern humans were spreading out in Europe, around 40,000 years before the common era, the last Neanderthals were pushed back to Gibraltar and this as their last bastion of a sort. Throughout geologic time, there have been countless species that have been pushed to their last bastion of their habitat and while some come back, some die as we are seeing with the climate change die off. We could be in the same boat as the Neanderthals at some point in our species history. When we look at more military examples in human history, there are some prime examples. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 after a 53 siege, this important city of Christendom was looted and sacked with all manner of violent and crimes, with many men, women, and children raped and then sold into slavery. For many, the last bastion of Christendom and the old Roman Empire was gone and surely western civilization will fall. One of the better examples comes to us from the ...no more text here

The Last Bastion and Science Fiction
One of the surface of this trope, we can easily see that the Last Bastion theme is as a common plot device as there are Toyota Corollas. It does have to be the entire theme of the work in question, like Battlestar Galactica, it can just be an episode or a mission or setup for the show that changes later, like Andromeda. Given the commonality, the Last Bastion concept or setting can difficult to nail down, due to vast amount of times it has been used in science fiction. I’ve attempted in the Examples section to provide some variations on the concept. 
One variation that I did not use due to the amount of those in media is the Last Man On Earth trope. 
This is like the last human on Earth as seen in I am Legend works, the last child on Earth as seen in Children of Men, and the unused concept for 4th Mad Max movie. Before the long-awaited release of Fury Road, there was of rumors floating around the internet of the early 2000’s, especially on AICN. According to the rumored concept, Max’s son would be paid to escort a group of “pure blood” women from one safe location to another while being pursued by several different groups of wasteland warriors. It was envisioned as a film that would devote the majority of its runtime to the chase of the Pure Bloods. In the veins of these females was the final hope for humanity unaltered by the Nuclear War. In some ways, the last hope of the Jedi Order was in the twin children of Darth Vader and they were the last bastion of hope to restore the Jedi Order after the end of the Clone Wars. Given the popularity of this concept since the beginning of storytelling, it is highly likely that it will continue when humans are around campfires on off-world colonies.  

Examples:

The Last City from Destiny
For me, one of the best examples of the Last Bastion concept is the Last City from the Destiny universe and it is also one of the examples I am the most familiar with given my extensive Destiny addiction. Originally, The City was established as a refugee camp after The Collapse of the Golden Age directly under The Traveler. These refugees gathered under the Traveler for protection with the destruction of the off-world endo-Sol colonies and the major Terran cities. It was here, likely Pokhara, Nepal, that the last city of humanity rose like a phoenix. The protection of the Last City came from the newly formed Guardians, armed citizens, the massive walls, and the Traveler. This Camelot-like setting serves as a hub for Guardian operations, production of materials for the war, a last home for humanity, and a place for economic activity. There are those that still live outside the wall of the Last City in small communities, but there is nothing like the Last City in all of the Sol System. It is, the last remnant of the civilization that was before the Collapse and it is but an echo of the Golden Age cities and society. Like all good last bastion fortresses, the wolves are always at the door and there have been several major battles and invasion of the Last City, including the Red Legion. It is uncertain the future of the Last City with the coming invasion after the Witch Queen.

The XMC-10-284 Andromeda Ascendant from Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda
After the end of the original Star Trek series in 1969 and until the movie-era of Trek, Gene Roddenberry was a man in need of work. He penned a number of scripts and some where made into pilots. Two of the pilots made in the 1970s were Planet Earth and Genesis II with both borrowing from the same concept and primary character’s name: Dylan Hunt. While neither were picked up for on-going TV shows, the concept was resurrected for a 3rd time for the Tribune Entertainment sci-fi TV show Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda that ran from 2000-2005. In that show, Cpt. Hunt commands the High Guard XMC-10-284 Andromeda Ascendant warship of the Systems Commonwealth and one of the most advanced warships in the three galaxies. When the Nietzscheans launch a coup against the Systems Commonwealth for giving away some their territory to the Magog, the Andromeda was thrown into the event horizon of a black hole. 303 years later, the Andromeda Ascendant is located by treasure hunters. In this era, the Systems Commonwealth has fallen and three galaxies are controlled by various factions Pre-Fall High Guard ships are rare and very valuable. After these pirates decide to join Dylan and the Andromeda, he launches a mission to form a new System Commonwealth. This makes the nearly 400 year old Dylan and the Andromeda the Last Bastion of the old Systems Commonwealth and High Guard.  

The Ark from Brink
In 2011, Splash Damage and Bethesda Software released Brink to the game public, and it was hoped to a first-person squad shooter hit that could get some of the Call of Duty market. The game was a disappointment to most critics due to the game not seemingly being complete, but many praised the design and the SMART System mechanics. This added up to a game that was short-lived and the franchise that was being constructed by the studio and the publisher burned to the ground. In the plot of the game, the world is in the grips of massive climate change with global flooding in the mid-21st century. To prevent a last bastion of pre-flood civilization, the artificial island, “Ark”. Here the rich of the world will live in a green utopia that is independent of the old world. When the oceans rose, the Ark became one of the last safe places on Earth and it was flooded with refugees. With the influx of too many people for the Ark’s resources, there became the poor and the rich…and then Ark civil wars began. It is sad that such a cool concept was ruined.    

The Minas Tirith of Gondor and Helm's Deep from The Lord of the Rings
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n the legendary Lord of the Rings saga, there were two primary examples of Last Bastions for the forces allied against the power of Sauron: Hornburg and Minas Tirith. In Gondor, Minas Tirith had been a noted guard tower and citadel for the forces of Gordon and then became the capital of the kingdom in 1640 of the 3rd Age of the Sun. Just before the War of the Ring in 3019 of the 3rd Age, citadel had fallen on hard times with less than half of its normal population. When the war came, it became one of the final fronts of the war with iconic battles, events, deeds, and sacrifices. Minas Tirith was regarded by the Free Peoples of Middle Earth as the last bastion of defiance against Sauron and his dark allies. If the White Tower fell, than so would much of Middle Earth. Another siege site for the Free Peoples of Middle Earth was the Hornburg located in the Helm’s Deep gorge in the Kingdom of Rohan. Built in the 2nd Age of the Sun, the Hornburg was a place security and sanctuary for the peoples of Rohan during times of war. During the War of the Ring, the fortress was damaged due to explosives, but held to resist the armies of darkness.   

The Last City of Humanity Zion from The Matrix Franchise
Deep down in the Earth, where it is still warm there is the last human city populated with those born free and those freed from the bondage of the machine. This Zion…the last bastion of humanity, again and again. In the Matrix films, Zion was mentioned in the first film and then seen in the sequel. Home to over 250,000 souls, Zion is the last place that the humans of the post-machine war lived and attempt to build a new society deep underground. When Neo finally meets the Architect of the Machine consciousness, he learns that Zion has been founded and then destroyed six times before and that Neo will restart Zion for the 7th if chose one path. While most of the freed peoples of Zion believe that the year is around 2200, it is the 28th century in reality and that the Last City of Zion continues to be the assumed Last Bastion. In actuality, the Last Bastion of humanity lives in some ways in the Matrix itself, because the bulk of humanity lives in slavery in an artificial replication of the 20th century.  

Fort Tarsis from Anthem
When the big book of video games is written and there is several chapters on the insidious business practices of EA are laid out in all of the bloody details, there will be a section on Anthem. Released in 2019, the BioWare and EA and then died in less than one year, Anthem was attempted at an EA Destiny Loot-&-Shoot clone that had some cool elements and Iron Man suits. In the lore of the now-dead game, the humans living on the planet of Coda were enslaved and a woman named Helena Tarsis liberated the human race via the use of exo-suits now called Javelins. In the present day of the game setting, Fort Tarsis was one of the few settlements left after the fall of Freemark city due to the unleashing of the Hearts of Rage (songs like a 1980’s Hair-Metal band). After the fall of the main city to the Dominion, Fort Tarsis becomes one of the last walled cities in that region of Coda.

The Kushan Mothership from Homeworld
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n one of the most iconic military sci-fi RTS titles of all time is 1999’s Homeworld. Borrowing some elements from the original Battlestar Galactica, the plot of Homeworld is the grand space migration of a humanoid race to locate their original homeworld. In the story, the Kushan people locate an ancient starship and information on their origin point. The clans of the Kushan come together to construct a mothership to transport 600,000 cryogenically frozen Kushan citizens to their original homeworld, Hiigara. During the shakedown cruise of the Mothership, the Taiidan Empire attacks and kills most of the Kushan people. The reason for this attack is their had been a treaty 4,000 years ago that prevented the Kushan from developing hyper drive technology. With their home in flames, the Kushan set out among the stars to locate their homeworld with the last bastion of their race in cryo-tubes tucked inside the massive Mothership.

Jacinto in from the Gears of War Franchise
Before the Locust Horde invaded from the Hallows, the city of Jacinto was known as a city of the arts and the jewel of the Tryus nation-state. Then came Emergence Day and the whole of Sera was consumed in war and death. With the Locust tactic of coming from out under the ground, the advantage of the city of Jacinto was quickly seen: the granite bedrock of the Jacinto As the war raged on and the key cities on Sera destroyed, the COG government moved their operations and staff to Jacinto. Soon, Jacinto became the last bastion of Sera against the Locust Horde. For the first two games of the oddball Gears of War franchise, the city of Jacinto was the focus and the homebase for the COG military campaign to prevent end of human life on Sera. Then the city was sunk to flood the Hallows to end the threat from the Lambent.
The Civilian Fleet and the BSG-75 from Battlestar Galactica
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n the much-improved BSG reboot from 2004, we still see the concept of the last bastion of the 12 Colonies contained within the civilian fleet and its protector the Galactica. Unlike the previous 1978 series, the intensity and desperate nature of the situation that the survivors of the Cylon Holocaust found themselves in was clearly broadcasted throughout the series. Added to this was the nature of the floating fortress that was the Galactica and her limitations. All of this made this one of the best examples of The Last Bastion in all of science fiction

The "Arks" from the Classic Doctor Who Universe
In the year of 6087, the long-serving Nerva Beacon station was transformed into a lifeboat for a select few members of the human race to survive deadly solar flares that would make the Earth uninhabitable for thousands of years. This space ark and last bastion of humanity was then inflected by Wirrn insect race and the humans overslept by ten thousand years. “The Ark in Space” was the first full independent story of the 4th Doctor and has been credited as one of the better stories for the 4th Doctor. There was a similar story called “The Ark” for the 3rd Season of the First Doctor that involved a generational ship from 10 million years in the future that is transporting humans to their new home, Refusis II. While iconic in one way, given its age, “The Ark” is silly in many parts.  

The Ring Installations from HALO
At the heart of the original HALO trilogy that launched a mega-gaming franchise is the Forerunner ringed space stations. There use was to be a weapon capably of wiped out high-level lifeforms to rob the Flood of their food source and starve the parasite invasion back into submission. To do this, the Forerunners constructed these ringed installations to fire a blast out into the cosmos and kill of sentient life. One array can affect 25,000 standard Lightyears.  12 are currently known and they are managed by an AI construct like Guilty Spark 343. Encased in the Installations were the seeds of the advanced lifeforms, like modern humans, of the galaxy protected from the Flood and the Halo Ring blasts. After the Flood were gone, the seeds were released onto their original homeworlds and they were managed by specialized Forerunner staff tucked away in the Shield Worlds. While the Ringed Installations were some elements of the last bastion of Forerunner civilization, there was also the Shield Worlds that were bomb shelters for some of the Forerunners and their technology. These were prized by the Covenant and the UNSC for being a treasure chest of Forerunner technology.

The City of Atlantis from the Stargate Universe
The Ancients of the Stargate Franchise lore were humans that they developed the stargate network that is the main device of the franchise. In their very long history, the Ancients developed space flight capable city that was originally on Earth between 5-10 million years ago. When a plague swept through the Milky Way, the Ancients took Atlantis to a world called Lantea in the Pegasus Dwarf Irregular Galaxy that lays some 3 million lightyears away from the Milky Way. There, the Ancients seeded life among the stars and found a deadly hostile species…the Wraith. The Lantean-Wraith War lasted for a century and when the Wraith gained the upper hand, all but Lantea world was left of their empire. For some time, the shield of the city kept the Wraith out until the Ancients knew that the war was over. They sank the city in the deepest of oceans, their last bastion taken from them. History repeated itself, as the Atlantis Expedition had to hold out against a Wraith bombardment until the Daedalus can arrive.

The SDF-1 After the Holocaust
In 1999, the alien battle fortress known as the SDF-1 was sent by its master, Zor, to an unimportant primitive world known as Earth, it altered the history of the human race for all time. When the Zentraedi fleet under Commander Breetai finally located the SDF-1 in 2009, he attempted to retake the battle fortress by invading the Macross Island city. To lead the alien force away from the Earth, the SDF-1 attempted a hyperspace jump to lunar orbit…and they ended up near Plato with the entire Macross Island, the surrounding ocean, the city, and the 70,000 civilians. For months, the crew and civilians onboard the massive SDF-1 reconstructed the city within the “legs” of the battle fortress. When the Zentraedi recovery fleet was polluted by the human culture, Supreme Commander Dolza ordered the entire Zentraedi fleet to attack Earth and wipe out humanity. The SDF-1, the Grand Cannon, and the Breetai fleet were the defenders of Terra. When the battle was over and the 1st Robotech War ended, the Earth was scarred, and billions of humans were dead…this was the Zentraedi Holocaust. After this, the SDF-1 crashed in a crater and thus, this was the founding place of last bastion of humanity on the Earth…New Macross City.    

The Gas Giant Fergusson Fortress Moons from Dynamo Joe 

First Comics was a Chicago-based comic publisher that would only last a few years. Yet, despite this, First Comics would, in 1984 would published Doug Rice's love letter to Japanese Mecha culture with Dynamo Joe. This military sci-fi comic would have a unsteady publishing history with limited series, specials, appearances in other comics, and then a full series centered on the Alliance Dynamo CLASS-III mecha suite named "Joe" during the Orion War. I grew up with this comic and to me, it is the best Military Science Fiction comic of all time. It is a pity that the full series was unable to unfold as Doug Rice designed and First Comics cut years out of the series to publish a "completed" story and wrap up the Orion War in less than 20 issues. In 1991, First Comics was no more. In the Dynamo Joe story, the Alliance of the 35th century banded three galactic civilizations: The Terrans, the Imperials, and the Tavitans to defeat a organic-technology using enemy from beyond the Milky Way. The mission of this enemy was unclear, but they were on a beeline to the homeworlds of the humans and the Tavitans: Terra and Londree. To slowdown the enemy and allow for rebuilding of the Alliance fleets after the Rim Battle Massacre, General Sergel Ippolitov fortified the eight moons of the gas giant Fergusson. For three years, these moon forts prevented the enemy from advancing deeper in Alliance space...then as the Dynamo Joe opened, the last bastion of the Fergusson forts, Fergusson 8, was being invaded.   

The Embryo Colonization Plan "B" from Interstellar
In the mind-bending 2014 film, we see the human race one the verge of starvation with the last foodstuffs crop, corn, being newly infected by the Blight. Using the newly discovered artificial wormhole near Saturn, the NASA interstellar explorer vessel Endurance goes to scout out for a Earth-like atmospheric standard world for colonization. One of the backup plans, “B”, is to seed the atmospheric standard world with 5,000 frozen specially selected embryos for a population bomb. The new exo-solar colony would be populated with the very best of humanity and they would be completely separate from the dying Earth. The people of Earth would be left to die as the future of human, its last bastion, would be on this new world. In the film, Dr. Brand took the Endurance and setup her Plan B colony on Wolf Edmunds’ Planet with the robot CASE and soon to be, Cooper as well.

Power Base & Eden II from Captain Power and the Soldiers of Tomorrow
In 1987, a very different, but unique sci-fi property was released in the toy stores and on syndicated TV: Captain Power and the Soldiers of Tomorrow. In the series, the 22nd century saw the rise of a single machine consciousness (Overmind) to manage a robotic global army to prevent the ugly meat bags from making war…and then there was SkyNet type situation and mankind was on its heels. These were the Metal Wars and mankind was badly losing. One of the smartest men in the world at that time was Dr. Steward Power and he developed the Power Suits to make one man as strong as a robot soldier with more abilities and weaponry. All of his plans were altered when mankind on the edge of losing, and he moved the project to a secret under-the-mountain base called “Power Base”. To keep the location hidden, there were portals to allow the military forces to deploy without the forces of Lord Dredd to locate and destroy the Power Base. From the end of the Metal Wars and until the end of the first (and only) season of the show, Power Base is where the member of Captain Power’s team are headquartered along with the reminds of the old Earth Military and the AI computer system. It is the last bastion for these military resources beside the limited human resistance. However, that changes with the discovery by the Power team of the mythical Eden II. The long-rumored human sanctuary made contact with the Power Team with the gift of a real orange. If the series had been allowed to go for a 2nd season, Eden II would have been more revealed, and it was likely that it would taken a few more seasons for us to actually see Eden II and its advanced technology. While the Power Base was the military last bastion for humanity post-Metal Wars, Eden II was the last bastion for human civilization,  

The Oil Refinery Compound from Road Warrior
In the Mad Max history, wars and revolutions in the Middle East caused the global oil supply to be unstable to the point of economic collapse on a global scale. Before the nuclear war, the cities were abandoned, there wars over basic resources, and murder was everywhere. During this, a former oil employee took a group of people out into the Outback to a small oil refinery and pumping station constructed as a test to harvest oil from the Outback to create domestic production. After the collapse of the oil companies, the refinery was used as a means to get to the coast and away from the gangs. This may have been on of the last working oil refineries in all of Australia  

The Mars Base from Genesis Climber MOSPEDA
From October of 1983 to March 1984, Genesis Climber MOSPEDA aired via the Fuji TV Network and ran for only 25 episodes due to low ratings. It was imported to the west by Harmony Gold to serve as the 3rd part of the ROBOTECH saga and there the original anime lived on with more success than the original Japanese title. In the original story, Humanity has developed a new fuel, HBT, and colonized Luna, Mars, and Jupiter...then the aliens called Inbit arrive. By the late 21st century, the Earth was conquered and humanity was limited to a few pockets of settlements and slave farms. However, the Inbit did not attack the colonies on Luna and Mars, where were quite large. For decades, the Mars government devoted themselves and their resources to fielding Earth Reclaiming Fleets to knock the Inbit out of their primary base, Reflex Point. Mars became the last bastion of humanity and its culture devoted to saving Earth from the crab-like aliens. 

Little Houston Lunar Base from The Terminator  NOW Comics series 
In the first Terminator comic book series, published by the defuncted NOW Comics in 1988, we learn of a long lost and hidden the last bastion of pre-judgement day Earth on Luna. At the time of publication, the second Terminator film had not yet come out and the NOW writers filling in some details that were altered by the events of the second film' s timeline. In the comic's first issue, we learn that back in 1998(!) the UN setup a lunar outpost of some size and complexity, it was nicknamed "Little Houston". After SkyNet nuked the world, there was debate among the limited population on the lunar base to go down to Earth and fight SkyNet or remind hidden on the moon and wait for victory against the machines. They waited, but the Lunar colony needed some living building blocks for their greenhouse and that forced shuttle missions to the blackened Earth. During one of these mission near the Flordia coast in December of 2031, one of the lunar supply missions was exposed during a fight between SkyNet forces and the local Human Resistance unit, the Sarah Slammers. The lunar team of humans and one android pulled with the Sarah Slammers and they never returned to the moon and the moon base never sent a rescue mission. When SkyNet learned of the lunar base, it attempted to send a heavily modified NASA Space Shuttle as a Terminator troop transport to attack and destroy Little Houston. The Slammers stopped the launch. The future of the human resistance and the lunar colony was never shown due to the cancellation of the comic and the shutting of NOW Comices doors in the early 1990s.   

The Babylon 5 Station
After the bloody Earth-Minbari War, millions were dead, the Earth Alliance colonial holdings were basically gone, and the military power of EarthForce was nearly nonexistent. It was during this fragile time that the Babylon Project was put forward in 2248 by the Earth Alliance for a diplomatic space station in neutral space that could host peace talks and solve problems before interstellar issues could rise to the level of the Earth-Minbari War. It was to be the best and last hope for peace and on the 5th station; it was finally achieved. For the first few years of B5’s operation, it was just that…a last bastion of hope and peace. Then the Centuari Republic invaded Narn, altering the mission of B5 and soon the Shadows returned. During this time of war and division, the Earth Alliance attempted to seize and control the station. This was the opening battles in the 1st Earth Alliance Civil War and soon, B5 became the HQ for the War against the Shadows. B5 switched from the best and last hope for peace, to the best and last hope for victory.    

The EDF Space Battleship Yamato from the Space Cruiser Yamato Franchise
In the original Space Cruiser Yamato TV series and film, humanity was living in massive underground cities and their space naval forces were defended by the powerful Gamilon Empire invasion force. To force the surrender of the Terrans, the Gamilons were bombarding the Earth with radiation bombs and slowly the radiation was leaking into the underground cities. There was only one year left until surrender or death. To secure some of humanity, the wreck of the Imperial Japanese super battleship, the Yamato was being secretly reconstructed into a heavily armed evacuation vessels until the gift of the Wave Motion Engine by Iscandarians to help humanity cross vast interstellar distances to come to Iscandar and recover the Cosmic DNA to save and regrow the Earth's biome. The Yamato was then transformed into a power warship to make the crossing within one year. This final Terran warship with alien technology was Terra's last and best hope for survival against their blue skinned enemy. In someways, the Yamato was the last bastion of Earth's hopes and military strength via the Starforce. 
Given how wildly successful the 1974 TV series and the 1977 film were in Japan and then later exported to the West as "Starblazers", there was sequel. When the White Comet Empire came to attack the Earth, the EDF had rebuilt, but to mine the same emotions, the writers destroyed the new Terran navy and the new flagship, the Andromeda, so that the Yamato was again the last bastion of hope for victory. Then they did again and again for the further sequels on TV and on the big screen until the end of the Yamato in Final Yamato in 1983. All of this was design to go back the emotional well of the Yamato being the last protector of humanity and it comes up so hollow and predicable. After the White Comet Empire storyline, the idea should have been changed, but it wasn't and it ruins the reminder of the Yamato TV series and films. My hope is that the rebooted Yamato TV series do not follow in the boring footsteps of the original and break away from Yamato being the only warship to protect Earth from her blue-skinned alien foes.     



The UNSC World of Reach
One of the most important colonies in the whole of the UNSC is the military colony of Reach in the Epsilon Eridani system, some 10.5 Lightyears from Sol. By the time of the Human-Covenant War, Reach was center for UNSC fleet operations, the SPARTAN-II Program, key ONI operational centers and black sites, along with having the largest off-world colony in terms of population. While Earth was the mother to the human race, Reach was becoming the symbol of humans as a spacefaring race…that was until the Covenant attacked Reach in 2552. When the battle for Reach was made public, it shook the UNSC to its core. Here was the key military location outside of the Sol System and it was under attack from a massive alien force. If Reach fell then nothing was left to stand between the alien invaders and Earth. Reach was the last bastion, the fortress among the stars for human.  

The Nexus from Mass Effect Andromeda
As the Reaper threat slowly came to Milky Way Galaxy, the secretive Andromeda Initiative embarked on a long-term risky colonization mission to the Andromeda Galaxy some 2 million Lys away in 2185. This mission was originally privately funded as a exploration and colonization mission, but given the Reaper threat was only believe by a few, the Citadel secretly funded the Andromeda Initiative to save the Milky Way civilizations from the Reaper extinction by seeding the Andromeda Galaxy with this one-way colonization mission using six Ark intergalactic sleeper ships and a central space station hub patterned after the Citadel, called the Nexus. This Nexus space station is the last bastion of the Milky Way civilizations that fell under the Reaper’s blade some 500 years ago. We know that something of the Milky Way societies survived due to the ending scene in Mass Effect 3 and until Mass Effect 5 drops, we will have to assume that the Nexus is the last bastion of the old Milky Way civilization,.  

The Terra Nova Settlement from Terra Nova
In this bold, but under-cooked very expensive FOX TV show, Terra Nova, we see Earth’s distance past as a solution to the issues of the 22nd century. In 2149, the ability to time travel had been discovered by accident via a portal back millions of years. This appeared to be a solution to the environmental collapse and the overpopulation of the 22nd century. Throughout the only season of the show, there was a series of migration waves from the 22nd century Hope Plaza complex to the Terra Nova settlement, some 85 million years in the past. The last bastion for humanity was the Terra Nova settlement designed to be in harmony with the local environment and serve as a focal point for colonization of those selected to be colonists. With the cancellation of the series, I guess will never find out what happened.


Next Time on FWS...
The use of staffs for combat is certainly older than our species and every kids knows that a good piece of wood can serve as a staff for fancy spins to impress and amaze. This is not lost on science fiction creators and throughout the realm of sci-fi, there have been a number of staff-based weapons that, at times, were a blend of melee weapon and directed-energy weapon system. In the next installment of The Weapons of Science Fiction, we will looking at one of the finest examples of a sci-fi staff weapon, the Ma'Tok of the Jaffa warrior society that served their masters, the Goa'uld. In addition, we will also be examining other sci-fi staff weapons, like the High Guard Force Lance. Stay Frosty until next time. 




05 August 2022

Military Sci-Fi Oddities: There was ALIENS and TERMINATOR RPGs?!


















During the RPG and boardgame craze that started in the late 1970’s, there was a massive amount of all types of RPGs and boardgames made and for all different types of setting. You could be the captain of a Federation starship, a Bard singing in Waterdeep bar, a tank commander in a post-WWIII European battlefield, a zelot genetic engineered killing machine in a space hulk cutting down monsters with a chainsword, or even a pilot of 11 meter tall walking tank on a far-flung human colony stalking other walking tanks.You are never quite sure what you will find when you wander around the dusty back sections of your favorite local comic book store back in the 1980's and 1990’s...and during my hunting days in those back corners of Starbase 21 in Tulsa. During this time, I came across what I would later learn was the Leading Edge Games ALIENS role playing game. I can still recall the boxed RPG sitting on the back RPG shelves at Starbase 21 comic book store in Tulsa. Never bought, never knew anyone that did...but I wanted to see what the hell was this game about my favorite movie was all about. Recently, while watching Spoony's Counter Monkey series, he displayed the Leading Edge Game ALIENS  game and that got me to Googling...then I made a profound discovery: not only was there an ALIENS RPG, but there was an Terminator one as well! WTF?! In this blogpost, we will explaining and exploring the ALIENS and Terminator RPGs developed by Leading Edge Games in the twilight hours of their existence. 

Who the Hell was "Leading Edge Games"?
The graveyard of game companies that were founded in the apex of the popularity of RPGs in the post-D&D world are many and the publisher of ALIENS and Terminator 2 RPGs is among the headstones: Leading Edge Games. Founded in by Barry Nakazono and David McKenzie in 1982 in Pasadena, California and closed around 1994. One of the most interesting facts about the founders of LEG was that Barry Nakazono is currently a propulsion engineer at CalTech and David McKenzie is a writer and designer. 
This level of talent was involved in developing several noted in-house titles besides the licensed titles that LEG managed: Living Steel and Phoenix Command. Phoenix Command is infamous today (and even then) in the old-school RPG realm due to it’s vast and hard-nosed detail to realism when it comes to wound ballistics in combat situations from specific weapons. Using this system for gaming would allow for a certain caliber of round fired from a specific weapon that impacted in a certain area of the human body to calculated and the damage laid out at the anatomical level. The fun will now commence. Living Steel, published in 1987, was a pen-and-paper-with-miniatures military sci-fi game that was used by LEG as a vehicle for their Phoenix Command Combat System (PCCS). The game takes place on the colonial world of Rhand during an alien invasion and the human resistance in powered armor suits waging a war of survival against the invaders. These two games put LEG company on the map and into the gaming consciousness. Later on, LEG would get the license for ALIENS, Terminator 2, The Lawnmower Man, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula that allowed the company to fuse those properties with the PCCS. The complexity of the PCCS and bad word of mouth among the gaming community may have ended the company before they could change and save the good work they did with their licensed properties.    

ALIENS Adventure Game (1991)
This RPG game was centered around the US Colonial Marines in the 22nd century and the base game of around 200-page manual was sold for $21 in 1991 ($47.75 in 2022 money). One of the interesting and odd elements of the ALIENS Adventure Game is that there was previous LEG ALIENS boardgame released in 1989 that was much loved and sells for big money today. Unlike that 1989 boardgame, the 1991 ALIENS Adventure Game used the nuclear-launch code complex PCCS developed by LEG for several of their games. Given the use of miniatures and the focus on the military science fiction element of the ALIENS universe, it was slow game that dealt with the reality of combat on off-world colonies with all manner of alien lifeforms. Leading Edge Games did some nice work on fleshing out some of the background information on the ALIENS universe that included stellar cartography, the xenomorph themselves, USCM equipment and vehicles, and even other ships besides the Sulaco. While the game manual seems impressive, when have to remember that this is context to the time when published. The 1996 ALIENS Colonial Marine Technical Manual is far more detailed than the 1991 game manual and there was no original art inside the game manual to speak of, save for the star maps. Some of the photos used in the 1991 game manual were rare and some were only available in the official 1986 movie magazine (which is awesome!). Some have said that the ALIENS Adventure Game is too centered on the USCM and there is a lack of the RPG character roles and personalities seen in titles like Twilight 2000, Traveler, Star Frontiers, and D&D. Despite coming out three years prior to the end of LEG, there was no additional modules developed. There was a adventure module developed  for the ALIENS boardgame, but for the RPG.   

The ALIENS Adventure Game Miniatures 
The 25mm pewter miniatures were the work of Bob Ridolfi, who is a noted figurine sculptor. These miniatures, while a little rough, are still held in high regards and command high prices on the 2nd market. The entire team seen in the 1986 movie were recreated in a complete line of figures that was all 13 Colonial Marines with the support crew of Ripley, Burke, and Newt (and even the bloody cat!). 
These were blister sold in sets or in theme boxed sets including one having the Haley’s Hope colonists being attacked. Crazy. One of the standouts of the ALIENS 25mm figures was the vehicles. The Cheyenne Dropship, Powerloader, and the M557 APC are considered holy grails by collectors. One of the mysteries of the line was the mention on some sites of set number 20309, the USS Sulaco. There is nothing in the way of concept drawings or a prototype that hints that vehicle was more than planned by LEG before the company shut down.
Here is the complete list (list is from www.cs.cmu.edu/~tpope/sol/leading-edge/aliens.html) :

Boxed Sets
•     20300  Alien Warriors #1
•     20301  Colonial Marines #1
•     20302  Colonial Marines #2
•     20303  Queen's Lair
•     20304  Colonist's Last Stand
•     20305  Alien Warriors #2
•     20306  Power Loader
•     20307  APC
•     20308  Dropship
•     20309  Sulaco (never released)

Blister Packs
•     24101  Alien Warriors #1
•     24102  Alien Warriors #2
•     24103  Alien Warriors #3
•     24104  Alien Warriors #4
•     24105  Alien Warriors #5
•     24106  Alien Warriors #6
•     24107  Alien Warriors #7
•     24108  Alien Warriors #8
•     24109  Alien Warriors #9
•     24201  Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Burke
•     24202  Dropship Crew (Ferro, Spunkmeyer, Frost)

•     24203  Machinegunners (Vasquez, Drake, Wierzbowski)
•     24204  "Game Over" (Hudson, Bishop, Crowe)
•     24205  Apone (Apone, Gorman, Dietrich)
•     24301  Sentry Guns
•     24302  Facehuggers
•     24303  Alien Eggs
•     24305  Colonists Attacked by Facehugger
•     24401  Powerloader and Cat

TERMINATOR 2: Year of Darkness Miniature Combat System (1993)
One year prior to the closing of Leading Edge Games, one of the last products rolled out: T2: Year of Darkness Miniature Combat System. Based on the Human Resistance verse the robotic armies of SkyNet as seen in the future war scenes in the only two Terminator films, the game was designed to be a 25mm miniature combat game, which have a popular type of RPG games since time began. There is little on this game due to its rarity and even less information on what it was like to play the game. Even scans of the manual are nearly non-existent. To me, this might tell us that the game was not in wide circulation due to the game being released one year before the closure of LEG. The following section is taken from Terminator Wiki site had to say and it is one of the only pieces of information on the game: Taking place in 2027(?), Year of Darkness is an long out of print 25mm tabletop miniatures skirmish combat miniatures war game for 2 players, it was a squad level combat system, which one player assumed command of Human Resistance forces and the other player commanded SkyNet forces. Each player collected, assembled, and painted his army of 25mm pewter miniatures composed of either the human Resistance soldiers or the extensive SkyNet robotic army of endoskeletons, infiltrators, HK tanks and HK aerial units. 
These 25mm warriors would engage on the a homemade post-apocalyptic battlefield usually on a large 6×4 table and fight in strategic skirmish battles using multiple 6-sided dice for weapons attack outcome. The movement of the forces was determined with tape measure (inches or mm) and unit movement value was designated for each unit in the core rule book. The rule book contained 94 pages in black white print for basic rules and all advanced rules also included were extremely detailed diorama explaining in depth knowledge on weaponry, unit formation, Skynet HKs and Terminators and optional building and ruins layout for combat scenarios.” There is only one photo set of what this could look like along with seeing the LEG HK Tank

The T2: Year of Darkness  Miniatures 
As with the ALIENS Adventure Game 25mm pewter miniatures, the ones for Terminator game were the work of Bob Ridolfi, who is a noted figurine sculptor. These miniatures are much rarer than the ones for the ALIENS game and are highly regards by fans of Terminator and command a very high prices on the 2nd market. Until the recent 2015 Terminator Genysis War against the Machines 28mm miniature game, the 1993 LEG miniatures were the only game in town and it some ways, the LEG miniatures still are. The Terminator Genysis game is based on a film that is likely not canon and does not match the style of the first two films. The 1993 LEG miniatures fit within the accepted style of the Human Resistance fighters seen in the 1984 and 1991 films, not the 2015 abortion of a film that Genysis is. 
Typing that word “Genysis” makes me throw up in my mouth alittle each time. Like the ALIENS miniatures, there was some boxed set and some little blister sets sold and given that these were released one year prior to the closure of LEG, some of these set were made in a very limited numbers. The mystery of the T2: Year of Darkness miniature line is the SkyNet HKs. It seems that the HK “tank” ground attack unit was released (very rare), but the proposed HK aerial unit may not have been. I’ve never seen a scan of it in my research and it is likely it was never made. Here is the complete list (list is from (https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~tpope/sol/leading-edge/terminator.html):

Boxed Sets:
•     71100  "Hasta La Vista, Baby"
•     71101  Endoskeleton Boxed Set
•     71102  Future Soldiers Boxed Set
•     71103  Infiltrators
•     71104  Hunter Killer

Blister Packs
•     74102  Human - 40W Plasma Rifle
•     74103  Human - 40W Plasma Machinegun
•     74104  Human - 100W Plasma Rifle
•     74105  Human - 100W Plasma Machinegun
•     74106  Human - Demo Charges
•     74107  Human - Nitro Bombs
•     74108  Human - Bolo Grenades
•     74109  Human - Heavy Weapons
•     74201  Endoskeleton - 40W Plasma Rifle
•     74202  Endoskeleton - Dual Weapons - 40W
•     74203  Endoskeleton - 100W Plasma Rifle
•     74204  Endoskeleton - Dual Weapons - 100W
•     74301  Infiltrators - 40W Plasma Rifle
•     74302  Infiltrators - 100W Plasma Rifle
•     74303  Infiltrators - Plasma Shotgun

Why are these games an “Oddity”?
While RPGs based on a known media property is certainly not usually, it is odd how unknown these games are now and how complex they were. I can remember seeing the ALIENS Adventure Game around in back section of Starbase 21 in Tulsa and I believe there were some ads for the game maybe in Dark Horse Comics and Starlog Magazine. However, I do not remember anything about the T2: Year of Darkness game, despite being a massive fan of the War against the Machine seen in the only 2 Terminator films. Even today, the game is rare and expensive, (along with the excellent miniatures) and there is a lack of information on the T2: The Year of Darkness game to this very day. 
One of the standouts was the miniatures produced for the games, including the vehicles of both franchises. The thing about the miniatures is that they were pretty damn epic and bold in their concept to bring this to market. Included in the miniature lines were: ALIENS Powerloader (w/ Sentry guns), the Cheyenne dropship, the M577 APC, the HK tank, and even infiltrator Terminators. Included in the T2: The Year of Darkness miniature line was some T-800 Endoskeleton earrings and they are super rare today. 
Despite the lavish detail on the game manual, the extended background information, and the miniatures; the game mechanics were based on the chunky and unwieldy PCCS. From reviews today and at the time of release, the RPG community was not impressed with how long it took to fire at a target and determine damage and place of those10mm explosive tipped caseless rounds. The review I read in issue number 57 of Challenge Magazine from February of 1992 praised some of the elements of the game, but said in opening paragraph of the review that LEG took the ALIENS universe and gave it an “RPG butcher job”. The reviewer basically suggests to use the source material in the game manual for other military sci-fi game settings. Ouch.

Why Did these Games and LEG Fail?
Within the vast world of pen-&-paper RPGs, there are some infamous examples of way-too-complex systems that require tons of dice rolls and tables. Some examples are Aces & Eights: Shattered Frontier, Legend of the Five Rings, and FATAL. In a Counter Monkey video about the Legend of the Five Rings, the Spoony One discussed the pain in the ass that realistic RPGs can be and how they suck the fun out of the game when every single action, like drawing and firing a gun in a duel, is divided up into dozens of steps with dice rolls and table consultations accompanying to each move. This is coupled with the fan that you can die easily. Often mentioned in the realm of the games above is all of the LEG catalog of games save for the 1989 ALIENS boardgame. While some do love the LEG games, there is much criticism for their take on realism within an entertainment setting. These criticisms were leveled at the LEG titles at the time and these poor reviews and bad word of mouth impacted sales. By 1994, the party was over, and Leading Edge Games was no more.   


The Impact & Legacy of these Games
When the ALIENS and Terminator 2 games were released in the 1990’s, we do not know their direct impact on the RPG market or the fandom of the community. From the online community that has discussed these games at the time of release, we know that many were excited by the prospect of RPGs set in these franchise coupled with the line of metal miniatures and vehicles. Within a few years after the release of these games, the company shut their doors and that can give us the true measure of the impact of these games. Until the advent of the internet, online classic RPG sites and shops along with video hosting services, most had either forgotten that LEG existed or never heard of them. 
I was reminded that the ALIENS Adventure Game existed due to me spying on the book shelve of the Spoony One videos ( I was hoping for a Spoony Experiment video on the LEG ALIENS game…but that will never happen). One of the elements that helps us measure the legacy of these games is their price on auction sites and the these games and especially the miniatures sell for big money today, especially when they are unpainted and in their original awesome plastic and foam cases. The legacy of these games is similar to the Greek myth of Prometheus. Leading Edge Games reached for the sun with some of the best military science fiction licenses ever and they did not listen to those that wished for the jettison of the complex and unenjoyable PCCS resulting in the company getting burned and drowning. One of the best legacies of the material developed for the ALIENS Adventure Game was that some of it was used in the excellent ALIENS: The Colonial Marines Technical Manual from 1996.

Next Time on FWS…  
Within the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, there is the last stronghold that is designed to be the last bastion of that society. It could also be the last human city, or colony, or even the last warship. This concept has been used for centuries in human storytelling and mythology with stories like Noah’s Ark all the way to the Last City in Destiny. In the next installment of What We Will Fight Over, we will be discussing the concept of “The Last Bastion” in sci-fi/fantasy and in the real world.