In a 'verse with Conveniant Interstellar Travel (in the scale of a few weeks to a few months for neighbouring star systems), the East Orion Company controls large swathes of the sector thanks to their private marines. These marines fight in formation just like they did during the age of Colonialism and Napoleon, except with Near-Future technology.

Strategy and Tactics depend heavily on the technology available to the military, this the question is:

What technological pressures are required to cause optimum military strategy/tactics to emulate those of 1800s Napoleonic era warfare?

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps you can find out by looking at what technologies made napoleonic warfare useful in the first place. They wore bright uniforms so their commanders and other platoons could recognize them and give orders, but with radio's that would disappear. So at the very least accurate ranged communication needs to go. Large formation battles were also still tried in WWI, but the advent of machineguns made this a terrible idea. So you'd also at the least need to make the weapons weaker or protection stronger so people need a larger, not-automatic weapon. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jan 12, 2019 at 12:44
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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "these marines fight in formation just like they did during the age of Colonialism and Napoleon"? Can you give an example of an engagement in Napoleonic times where marines (Royal Marines, American Marines, whatever) fought in formation as if they were ordinary infantry? What could possibly be the purpose of fighting set-piece battles on land in an interstellar war? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 12, 2019 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP if you get the story right you can get an entertaining franchise and possibly sell tons of miniatures games-workshop.com/Warhammer-40-000. Is there any more reason needed? $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jan 12, 2019 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP, these soldiers are referred to as marines because they are deployed by space navies, but they could just as easily be members of the galactic army if that helps. $\endgroup$
    – Kyyshak
    Jan 12, 2019 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Kyyshak in that case shouldnt you call them espatiers? projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/astromilitary.php $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jan 12, 2019 at 13:18

8 Answers 8


There's a famous speech by Barack Obama where during his election campaign for his second term where he was accused of neglecting the military. The accusation was leveled against him that the American Navy had fewer ships than it had at the beginning of WWII.

His counter to that was that the army also had fewer horses and bayonettes than it did at the turn of the century; because that's not how wars were fought anymore.

The point being for your question is that your East Orion Company isn't the East India Company, and isn't going to mobilise troops and fight battles the way they did because the environment in which they fight, and the public rationalisation of those fights, is going to be radically different.

If you want proof of that, just take a look at how drones have changed military tactics. The point is, whenever you have a change in military technology, you have a subsequent change in military tactics and strategy because most technologies are developed to counteract a known weakness in current tactics or strategy.

War is increasingly fought with equipment rather than personnel and it is important to note that this will increasingly be the case, especially in scenarios where the people directing the equipment are separated from harm to the equipment. People are expensive to train, and as a result, less and less expendable. A human being who makes a mistake on the battlefield and dies is an incredibly inefficient way to prosecute a war, especially if that human being can learn from that mistake and become a better soldier. This is in effect what happens with drone pilots, who can learn in real time combat situations, take advantage of the semi-autonomy of the drones, and when things go pear shaped with the drone can hit auto-destruct and start again with superior experience.

This has happened many times in history.

The short-sword in the Roman Army
The Bow
The Cannon
The Musket
The list goes on

It's not inconceivable that the next big thing in military technology will be focused EMP strikes against drones and other military hardware. That is the next most obvious weakness of modern military strategy, and is likely in turn to be countered with either a counter EMP technology, electronics hardening, or some other counter which renders the EMP irrelevant without going back to the bad old days of risking human lives.

If we could accurately predict what that counter looks like, we'd already be developing it.

In any event, the military tactics of an FTL capable technology won't involve putting a large number of humans at risk; in all likelihood, it'll involve a deployment ship of a massive number of military drones, and a hardened command and control ship of operators which drive them on the planetary surface.

Ironically enough, it may well look like a more adult version of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

  • $\begingroup$ This form of warfare sounds pretty boring. Where will be the stories of heroism, epic last stands like Leonidas and his 300, and battles for honor and glory that inspire songs and tales throughout the ages like the battle of the 5 kings? $\endgroup$
    – Incognito
    Jan 12, 2019 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Incognito what is the last epic stand you can remember at all? I think there isn't any after WWII. $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2019 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan how about Dien Bien Phu and Long Tan for starters? And have a read of Daniel Keighran's Victoria Cross citation for one of several examples from Afganistan. The difference is that the attention span of the news services is very short and it is considered politically incorrect to glorify military actions in songs and epic poems these days. $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2019 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan I remember a few and can find others <- sad that nobodies knows his name outside the Marines. Fyi, what he did should have earned a much higher award - but poltics have made it all but impossible to recognize valor $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2019 at 2:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Incognito Reminds me of a quote (probably mangled by me), about war only being exciting to people who have never been to war ;) $\endgroup$ Jan 21, 2019 at 11:53

"What technological pressures are required to cause optimum military strategy/tactics to emulate those of 1800s Napoleonic era warfare?"

AKA what tech is required to not make people want to hide when being shot at?

The first answer that comes to mind is super effective personal shields. Why hide when the enemy can't hurt you?

What you need is something like the Holtzman shields from Dune. The Holtzman shield blocks fast moving projectiles but allows slow objects through.

Your troops can stay in formation and fire upon unshielded units in safety whilst ignoring return fire but against other shielded troops, you set bayonets and fight hand to hand.


Those tactics really ceased to be efficient when the germans started using the blitzkrieg tactic of bombers, then tanks, then infantry. I believe the napoleonic way had also been diminishing in efficiency due to ever better artillery before that.

Make it so that aircrafts are too easy to destroy while in air: better ground-to-air missiles, perhaps launched with simple handheld devices. Make tanks a liability, maybe by having EMP strikes being a thing and cheap (this could also kill drones). Then the military will be forced onto using the old ways again.


The weaponry is near future, but is functionally equivalent to that of Napoleon's time.

East Orion has a stranglehold on trade and suppresses indigenous industrial capability to keep the colonies dependent on trade. Both as a byproduct of this lack of industry and as an intentional policy choice, the colonies are without the advanced weapons technology that is possible (and is used elsewhere, in areas not controlled by East Orion). Thus although the tech is by definition near future, the destructive capabilities of the weapons are functionally equivalent to those of Napoleon.

The space marines are in large part recruited from native populations and so are not entirely trusted. Also there is always the possibility space marines and their materiel might be captured and their weapons used by the colonists or worse, copied. Thus the marines are sent to battle with weapons of the same destructive capabilities of the colonials they fight. The marines win not because of their weapons, but because of their training and discipline.

The lack of advanced weaponry does not mean that the colonists do not use other types of advanced tech. Medical tech is advanced which means most combatants will survive battles. The rationale of Orion: the colonies and the colonists themselves are investments. War is human and from time to time the colonists will need to make war. The space marines might even let them have some victories. It is psychology. But ultimately minimizing destruction of property and exports, and minimizing loss of life means maximizing income on investment.


As many people have noted in their answers, the battle tactics of an era depends a great deal on the technology available. It is difficult to imagine that any sort of space empire will not be able to field equipment comparable with what a modern 21rst century soldier is equipped with, except perhaps much lighter, more reliable and more lethal.

enter image description here

Little Green Men. Because it is a space fantasy, right?

So the issue needs to be how to eliminate all these technological advantages, and in such a way that it does not negate everything else. In Joe Haldeman's novel "Forever War", a soldier in an interstellar war discovers on returning from a mission that due to time dilation, centuries of R&D have happened in his absence and a "Stasis Field" has been developed, which slows the movement of every sort of particle to some arbitrarily slow speed. Electronics no longer work, engines and computers seize up and even biological processes stop. In the novel, covering your spacesuit or powered battle armour in a special protective coating protects you from the effects of the Stasis field, but if someone wants to come in and fight (assuming they are protected as well), then only edged weapons like swords and spears will work....

So the Stasis field is a bit extreme for what you want to do, but there are currently understood technologies which, if developed to extremes, could have the same practical effects on the battlefield. Highly focused EMP weapons could be used to burn out electronics on all but the most heavily shielded devices. Highly advanced cyber warfare weapons would reduce targeting computers, software radios and other computerized devices into junk (or untrustworthy devices with trojan horses and logic bombs implanted that could go off at critical times). The orbiting starships could ensure that no air or enemy spacecraft of lesser size and power than the starship itself could operate over the battlespace.This also applies to military vehicles large enough to be observed from orbit.

Now soldiers would be limited to communicating by voice, and advanced weapons systems of all sorts would be ineffective. To reduce weaponry to muskets and bayonets, there would need to be some sort of way of disabling modern explosives. Perhaps the battlespace was seeded with some form of nanobot plague designed to "eat" or neutralize modern explosives (perhaps initially a means of neutralizing IED's), but now gone rogue and mutated. However, traditional black powder isn't to its taste, so black powder weapons have made a comeback.

There are a few things which even this scenario isn't going to change. Modern machining means that the muskets can be built to exacting tolerances and rifled, meaning they will be deadly accurate to much longer ranges. The idea of cartridges isn't going away, they are far too convenient as well. So you would actually be looking not at the Napoleonic wars, but the period between the American Civil War and the introduction of automatic weapons in the 1880's 1890's (not volley fire or hand crank weapons like the Gatling or Nordenfelt gun, but true machine guns). So there will be a much greater use of open order and dispersed tactics in order to prevent forces from being gunned down.

enter image description here

10 barrel Nordenfelt gun

Artillery will see the same dynamic, modern machining means there is no need for muzzle loading cannon and rifled breach loaders are far more accurate and dangerous. Firing tables printed in books or mechanical calculators will also be used to rapidly calculate ranges and make artillery a very potent arm.

enter image description here

Canon de 75 modèle 1897. That is just going to wreak your entire day

So assuming the technological means to negate communications, electronic and computerized weapons and devices, and some means of negating modern explosives (and indeed many chemical weapons), then you will be thrown back into the 1800's. However, because it is still possible to manufacture weapons using modern materials and techniques, you will be in the mid to late 1800's in terms of technology, and your solders will be fighting in the manner of the American Civl War or the Franco-Prussian war.


It´s quite simple. All you need to do is negate technology with more advanced technology.

Make your marines very resilient.

  1. Equip them with energy shields, body armour, gas mask, etc.
  2. Equip them with guns with low rate of fire. Something like laser rifle which needs to be charged after every shot.

Now you have marines that can survive in close formations and reason for them to fight as line infantry.

Make wireless communication complicated.

Energy shields can also interfere with wireless communication, which opens possibilities for flag signals, motorcycle couriers, messenger pigeons, etc.


Communication and Intelligence blackout technology combined with armour to allow only low accuracy weapons

The dominance of the 'column' and 'line' formations were a result of the ability to keep troop cohesion together, enable force movements over fields which were coordinated and powerful.

Another of the main issues during the Napoleonic era was communication. Not having radios meant armies needed to be organised into larger groups, with strict formations to manoeuvre them on the field.

Also, the inaccuracy of muskets meant line attack formations were the only way to project force, as individual fire was largely ineffective. Slow reload times also meant units needed strict protocols and command.

Napoleonic tactics were also quite expensive, retaining and equipping a large army. They needed many soldiers to accomplish objectives, and a very hierarchal command structure.

The advent of regularly made rifles (which were more accurate) and insurgent warfare where force can be equally (if not more) effective without such coordination meant these tactics gave way to more entrenched forms of warfare and more independent units. Automatic fire also meant exposure became an issue, exemplified in WW1 where trenches were the norm and even bright uniforms presented you as too much of a target.

To return to this era you need to accomplish a few things:

  • The elimination of Space, and Air power
  • The lowering of accuracy of small arms and slower reload times
  • The removal of communication between units, except that which can be communicated on foot or by horse
  • The reduction of Force Multipliers to make people required to enlist (ie. lessening of value of a person to be essentially only a drone carrying a small firearm), and removal of economic impediments to using large amounts of personnel.
  • Adjustment of Officer to Enlisted men ratio (proportion of officers in a military is now much higher than in the Napoleonic era)
  • Elimination of any mechanised units such as tanks or APCs, and long range artillery.

I imagine that if there was jamming technology to eliminate all forms of satellite, radio and other communication, combined with personal armour protection capable of withstanding being hit by a round, with only firearms that could penetrate again being small, non-automatic and manually reloaded would contribute to this.

Combined with Air and Space power being ineffective by perhaps AI-controlled advanced laser technology, including artillery shells, and no power sources available for mechanised units, and also an excess of available personnel, combined with a limited value of human life, via perhaps a strict class system with a low proportion of officers (perhaps obtaining officer commissions through nobility and connection) and a large amount of enlisted men.

This could achieve what you are looking for, but again a feature of such battles were the incredible loss of human life and a strict class and command system.

  • $\begingroup$ Linear tactics were abandoned by the major powers in the last haldf of the 19th century. This was prior to air power, any form of battlefield communication other than available to Napoleon, mechanization, and before the widespread introduction of automatic weapons. $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2019 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ You also need some way of bringing back cavalry. Compact formations (like the classic Napoleonic line) are extremely vulnerable to artillery, so without the threat of highly-mobile forces appearing out of nowhere, you're likely to get more dispersed formations. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Jan 14, 2019 at 4:57

Short answer: none.

Long answer: absolutely none.

Linear battle tactics were on their way out decades before what we'd consider advanced modern warfare technology was on the scene. Once you had accurate, long-range rifle fire (even single shot) and quick-firing artillery with explosive shells fused for airbursts, the official name for linear formations on the battlefield changed to "target". Possibly "abbatoir". Cartridges and rapid-firing automatic weapons from the Gatling on up was simply the icing on the cake. World War One demonstrated the utter futility of trying such tactics, and that's where they were running as fast as they could toward enemy lines to reduce the time they'd be in the line of fire, rather than advancing and firing in ranks. They'd be dead before they finished assembling if they'd tried that.

That style of warfare was dropped by various German states and the Russians in the 1860s in exchange for skirmish-style warfare. The French and German Empire officially gave up linear tactics after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) when it was clear the tactics were totally obsolescent. The British Empire (not being involved in a major war against similarly-armed opponents) waited until the Boer War to officially toss it in the scrap-heap.


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