Sci-fi skirmish game Stargrave has arrived and the rules contain a wide range of pop sci-fi themes for the playable crews and adversaries. The game is loosely set in a lawless galaxy after an apocalyptic war where independent spaceship crews eke out a perilous existence among the stars, and it’s these crews that you play as.
But space is a big place and, my god, it is full of recognisable archetypes from TV, film and books! So it seems natural to ask… how would your favourite spaceship crews from other fiction fare?
In Stargrave, Each player controls a crew made up of:
1 x Captain, who is given a background such as cyborg or mystic. This is the leader and best fighter.
1 x First mate, who is also given a background, which can be different to that of the leader. Not as good as the leader but better than the rest.
8 x Soldiers, who are picked from various archetypes like hacker or trooper, are basically mooks who won’t necessarily last long.
The magic of Stargrave is that it is mini agnostic: you can use any sort of model to represent what you like, so long as the mini fits the rules of the character. As an example, any crew member can be a robot, with rules which distinguish them from organics, or they could be any sort of alien so long as they are of equivalent strength and ability to a standard, Star Trek-style humanoid with funny head prosthetics.
There are also rules for using credits to buy soldiers and more rules for advancing through campaigns, but those aren’t important here. It’s time to meet the crews!
Name a more iconic duo than the roguish smuggler captain and his huge, hairy first mate who pulls the arms off people who beat him at boardgames. Yes, it’s Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Han is clearly a captain with the rogue background. A scrappy fighter who is quick on the draw (maclunky!) and wins through tricks and guile rather than brute force. Knowing when to dash for victory and when to dash away again (after turning a corner and being confronted by a crowd of stormtroopers).
Chewie seems at first glance to be a tekker or maybe roboticist, due to his skills as a mechanic, but the biomorph background might better represent his physical prowess on the table. Biomorphs in Stargrave are described as genetic experiments with psychological scars and diverse physical abilities, but picking the right ones could let you represent Chewie’s strength, resilience and ability to pick people up and throw them at other people.
This leaves the rest of the crew, who could be other major characters, but I like the idea of casting them as the rebel commandos Han and Chewie lead during their daring raid on Endor in Return of the Jedi.
- Captain: Han Solo (Rogue)
- First mate: Chewbacca (Biomorph)
- 1x gunner
- 1x codebreaker
- 2x commandos
- 4x troopers
Star Wars Again
There are many well loved and memorable space crews from Star Wars spinoffs, such as Rebels and Clone Wars, and it would be remiss not to show off how they too can be represented in Stargrave.
Especially as the ‘mystic’ background is written to be every bit a Jedi. Warriors in flowing robes with mystic powers, regarded as dark sorcerers or humble healers, they can even use powers of mental suggestion, shoot lightning or fight with a laser sword.
I’ve never watched any of the prequel shows, so how about Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (this is getting out of hand, now there are two of them) plus eight Gungans.
- Captain: Qui-Go Jin (Mystic)
- First mate: Obi-Wan Knobi (Mystic)
- 4x pathfinder (Gungans)
- 4x runner (more Gungans)
Ghost in the Shell
One of the character backgrounds provided for Stargrave is ‘cyborg’. These are people who were mechanically augmented for various purposes before the end of the Last War and now find themselves with expensive cybernetic bodies to maintain and a certain set of skills.
That plot hook along with their infiltration and combat powers immediately put me in mind of Major Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. But who in Section 9 would support her and make up the rest of the crew? The answer, of course, is eight Fuchikoma spider-bots (plus Batou).
If you aren’t familiar with the manga/film/TV series, Kusanagi would work as a cyborg captain, using camouflage and combat powers to lead from the front (or perhaps from behind the enemy?).
The eight spider-bots could be played as soldiers of various roles focusing on hacking computers and blowing stuff up. All designated as robots, of course!
Batou is first mate and, although a cyborg in the fiction, is given the roboticist background. He’s always tinkering with the Fuchikoma during downtime in the manga, and his skills will help them operate in the field, robot manipulation being something that also features a lot in the manga. But he’s still a brawler, so will split his choices between explosively destructive and support powers.
- Captain: Major Motoko Kusanagi (Cyborg)
- First Mate: Batou (Roboticist)
- 2x codebreaker (robots) – Fuchikoma
- 2x grenadier (robots) – Fuchikoma
- 4x sentry (robots) – Fuchikoma
The Fellowship of the Ringworld
Inspiration doesn’t have to come from sci-fi, and when someone suggested this idea to me it absolutely had to be included. The nine members of the fellowship from The Lord of the Rings…. but in space!
Gandalf and Aragorn are obvious leaders. Picking which one should be captain is a little tricky… but who am I kidding, it’s gotta be Gandalf. Aragorn is actually a bit of a passenger early in the books, his story is mostly about growing into the role of a leader.
Gandalf as captain gets the psionicist background, beings who are described as having fantastical mental powers, able to shield allies, manipulate objects and deploy walls of force against their enemies. Aragorn takes the veteran background, representing his combat skills as a grizzled ranger as well as his ability to lead others.
The rest of the fellowship are soldiers of various stripes. Boromir, Gimli and Legolas are specialists themed toward their particular strengths. Frodo also gets to be a specialist to represent the various heirlooms he carries, giving him an edge over the other hobbits. Casecracker seems the best fit as a natural burglar. The final three hobbits are basic recruits, which still leaves one spot left. True Tolkein fans know that there is in fact a hidden tenth member of the fellowship, Bill the Pony, who also goes into the west and diminishes at the end of Return of the King, for he not only bore Frodo and his ring for a time but also carried Olórin and the Ring of Fire, Narya. What do you mean that’s not in the Silmarillion?
- Captain: Gandalf the Grey (Psionicist)
- First Mate: Aragorn (Veteran)
- 1x commando – Boromir
- 1x sniper – Legolas
- 1x armoured trooper – Gimli
- 1x casecracker – Frodo
- 3x recruits – Samwise, Meriadoc, Peregrin
- 1x guard dog – Bill the Pony
Heroes, rogues and psychic space wizards are only one part of the Stargrave setting. There is also plenty of room for the dregs of a decrepit mining ship trying to stay alive while bumbling around the void from accident to accident. The crew of Red Dwarf are as iconic as any entry here.
By necessity more than qualification, they are led by the last surviving human crew member: Dave Lister. He’s not entirely without skills, but there is no background based around eating curries and drinking beer so he’s being played as a tekker instead. Tekkers are all about using technology, getting their powers from gadgets or manipulating machines, which also suits Lister as a junior technician/janitor.
First mate is Kryten, who is physically incapable of leading but otherwise by far the most competent person left on the ship. His background is cyborg to represent him being a robot and his skills focus on manipulating tech and his own body rather than combat.
The Cat is a speedy pathfinder specialist soldier as he’s got moves (and is prone to wander off, like a cat). This just leaves Rimmer and we still have 7 soldier slots remaining. As a hologram Rimmer exists only as lines of code and in several episodes we see a great number of Rimmers all at once, perhaps most memorably on Rimmerworld. This is why the last 7 soldiers are all, unforgivably, Arnold Rimmer.
- Captain: Dave Lister (Trekker)
- First Mate: Kryten (Roboticist)
- 1 x pathfinder – The Cat
- 7 x troopers – Arnold Rimmers
Space is for everyone!
There are far too many ideas to explore them all here. Some of the most popular spaceship crews eking out a living on the edge of civilisation are from shows like Firefly or Cowboy Bebop. Star Trek is maybe the biggest omission as it provides loads of inspiration for different away teams (plus the redshirts backing them up). Mass Effect almost made it into the article, not for the Normandy’s crew but for the Salarian special forces group led by Captain Kirrahe you meet in the first game. Bunch of badasses.
Many of these characters even have excellent models made after them, either for official games or as legally distinct simulacra from third party stores. These would provide a ready-made, themed crew for you to paint and play with! There is also plenty of potential to model characters up yourself from other kits. The new plastic Stargrave models from North Star have plenty of bits and some great 70’s/80’s/90’s popular sci-fi vibes.
Even without custom models you can channel your crew inspiration into how you paint them. Something like the colour coding of Starfleet uniforms will be instantly recognisable on any outfit. And you can communicate a lot through your choice of colour scheme. Painting characters with the relevant hair and skin colours might instil them with a bit of your favourite crew too, maybe a particularly daring soldier can sport a beard like Riker!
Whatever your idea, Stargrave is designed to accommodate it! At time of writing the game has just released and I can’t wait to get started on my own crew. They don’t have to be based on something that already exists but it’s a fun way to explore what is possible within the rules. That said, if anyone finds some Fuchikoma models at 28mm scale please do get in touch.