Monday 7 November 2011

Assault Cyborgs

I recently acquired a pack of Heavy Battle Androids (HAD001) from "The Scene".  I've had my eye on these figures for several months as I thought they'd be ideal for use as huge cyborg assault troops (inspiration from the full conversion 'borgs in my days playing Rifts).  They tower nicely over my standard NAC infantry.

In these days of cloned limb and organ replacements, cybernetics are rarely used for essential medical purposes except on low-tech worlds. Cloned tissue has many advantages over bionics, and bone reinforcement tends to be the only non-natural enhancement (and even in this case,  organic constructs are frequently used, blending with the body). Military applications on the other hand have been developed and refined over the decades, utilising super-tough materials with high damage  resistance to enhance the normal human.  The first true combat cyborgs tended to be mercenary troopers.  No government wanted to be seen to encourage the creation of such biomechanical hybrids, but independent operatives were determined to make the most of the enhancements available, increasing their survivability.  The financial cost can be high, and most effectively take on a "full body mortgage", with very high interest rates meaning that they will rarely manage to pay off the full cost.  Of course, this high interest rates mean that by the time a  cyborg is killed, they have more than paid off the initial cost of the surgery, leaving their lender well in profit.

A full conversion is generally seen as an extreme "no return" option; due to the mentality of those involved it is presumed that the cyborg will be killed in action before reaching an age where it might want to revert to a normal human body.  The moral ambiguity of paying to convert someone into such a single-purpose killing machine is politically problematical, so several governments still refuse to develop their own cybernetic assault units, relying upon powered armour instead.  Of course, they are generally happy to employ "enhanced contractors" if the circumstances require it, a one-off mission payment is easier to justify than continuous employment.  Some militaries do have retained mercenaries operating on long-term contracts, but these tend to be stationed off-world and out of sight of the general public.  Given the lengths to which they have adapted themselves  for a pure combat role, most cyborgs are unwilling to be tied down to one employer; their urge to fight means they move frequently to ensure they always have the opportunity to exercise their fighting prowess.

Cyborgs have a number of advantages over pure robotic units.  Their bipedal nature gives outstanding performance in tough terrain, especially with the ability to use hands to assist with climbing  obstacles.  Grav or hover robots have greater mobility, but lack the ability that a ground-bound cyborg has to take cover or camouflage itself.  The greatest advantage for a cyborg is its human brain.  Making  split-second decisions in previously unexpected situations, identifying and prioritising threats, dealing with non-combat or off-mission
circumstances, all of these can be dealt with quickly and easily by a  cyborg.  A computer can be programmed to respond to many types of situation more quickly than a human brain, but there is always the
possibility of something arising which the programmers had not anticipated.  A Cyborg also has flexibility; can a tracked robotic gun mount assist in humanitarian operations such as food distribution or casualty recovery from collapsed buildings?

Assault cyborgs generally incorporate a heavily armoured exoskeleton. Within this, some have entirely robotic limbs, while others retain a limited amount of biological material, albeit with enhanced musculature  and reinforced bone structure.  The most extreme cyborgs have lost all but their brain, with the functions of other internal organs being replicated by synthetic replacements.  Most cyborgs stop short of this,  retaining their torso at the very least - but with internal strengthening to protect the fragile organic contents.  Cyborgs tend to be fairly uniform in appearance.  Though they varied considerably when they first appeared on the battlefield, years of combat experience mean that certain body forms and equipment load-outs have become the norm.  Built-in weaponry tend to be confined to close combat equipment such as retractable blades.  Ranged weaponry usually takes the form of oversized rifle-type systems.  These can be plugged into interface ports on the cyborg to relay targeting information as required and most cyborgs have lockable grips than ensure they won't drop their primary weapon.  They have the advantage that when the fighting is over, damaged weapons can be discarded and replaced immediately, it also gives the cyborg two manipulative hands with which to carry out everyday tasks like opening doors, moving crates etc.

Some cyborgs like to polish their body shells to emphasize their armoured appearance, but most will adopt suitable camouflage schemes for the environment in which they will be operating.  Some military contracts include the requirement for the cyborgs to be finished in an approved colour scheme to match regular combat units.  Experience has shown that this helps reduce so-called "friendly fire" incidents and can avoid confusion over identification where the physical appearance of a unit might not match its IFF transponder.  On the modern battlefield, even a fraction of a second could be the difference between the success or failure of a mission.

My Tomorrow's War stats:

At first glance these may seem too tough, but they're not much different to power armoured troopers - it's just that most of the special attributes I've given the Cyborgs come as standard with powered armour.

Confidence: High
Supply Quality Level: Normal to High (varies depending upon mission)
Overall Tech Level: 2
On Grid? Yes
Body Armour: Tech Level 2 Integral hard body shell (2D) (3D with skeletal augmentation - see below)
Troop Quality/Morale: D10/D10

Medium advanced ballistic support weapon: TL2 ABW, Med, AP:3 (stats already include +1D firepower for advanced ballistic weapon.  Will also add +1 to die roll when rolling on vehicle damage table)

Unit Attributes:
Advanced Sensors (+1 Die shift when trying to spot enemy units, double optimum range for spotting (becomes 20"), night vision system)
Hard to Kill (Roll D6 when unit takes casualty; 4+ they are uninjured, do not count as a casualty for morale. 1-3 treated as a normal casualty.  Survival roll cannot be made against any weapon with unmodified firepower of 3D+)
Old School (WIll not become pinned or lose confidence if the grid goes down)
Physical Augmentation: Active Trauma Treatment Nanites (allows advanced first aid check even if no-one present to administer aid)
Physical Augmentation: Skeletal Augmentation (+1D armour)

Otional extras:
In some situations, an Assault Cyborg may be Despised (-1 die roll modifier when interacting with local poulation ie. dispersing mobs etc.).  This will usually occur when they are operating on "civilised" worlds.  Backwater colonies are more understanding of cybernetic enhancements etc.
If used in circumstances such as riot suppression against civilians, Assault Cyrborgs can be considered Intimidating.
Some Cyborgs have retractable blades or other weapons built in to their bodies, these will count as Natural Weapons, giving a bonus die in close combat.


  1. Those are great, Paul! I think I prefer your militaristic paint scheme to my "shiny metal" version.

    -Chris K.

  2. I agree with Chris. Love the paint scheme for all your robot units.


  3. Wow! Those Heavy Attack Droids are big! I haven't seen a decent comparison shot with a standard 15mm figure until now.

    Great paint job and write-up. Peter Hamilton has similar augmented mercenaries in his Reality Dysfunction (sp?) series and I've wondered how to represent them on the table.

  4. These are great, hmmm, better then mine, really like the colour scheme.

  5. Hah! These are seriously cool! Great paint job, as mentioned above. I've just recently bought some of these from The Scene, and your painting has just made my life difficult!

  6. Thank you for the compliments :o)

    As well as Rifts, Peter F Hamilton's cosmonik cyborgs were also in the back of my mind. An excellent series of books!

  7. I've been loving your series of posts with pictures, background and stats; inspiring work. These models push the Rifts Borg button for me as well, I might pick some up and do a Coalition black paint scheme with some white stenciled numbers and silver paint chips.