A certain planet, currently over 50% populated by humans, features a planet-wide civilization where almost every citizen is given military training. The planet has recently become a major trade hub for a galaxy containing upwards of 20,000 known races, many of whom are not remotely humanoid. Members of several thousand of these races have begun to settle on the planet in question, and in recent decades, they have begun to approach nearly half the population.

Coordinating fleet tactics was a chore in itself, but now this society is in the process of designing a military training program that will allow members of virtually any race to fight together in ground combat.

Psychologically, I'm assuming that these species are comparable enough to humans that cognitive processes will happen in roughly the same way for most of them, regardless of how much suspension of disbelief that requires.

Conjecture regarding the feasibility and infrastructure of this planetary state, linguistics issues, the dangers of inviting new citizens to serve in the military, or other challenges with the scenario are not of interest for this question. This is about developing a basic training program for physical combat.

My thoughts so far (feel free to critique these):

A) Any mobile species would likely have a support structure of some kind (like our skeletal system) and a system allowing for mobility (like our muscular system). Fundamental martial arts principles could be used to help each individual develop a custom martial art. To oversimplify, strike with the hardest, most stable parts of your body that also have the most muscle support.

B) Firearms could be developed using identical components, with attachable, customized grips and triggers designed by members of each species.

C) It may not be safe to assume that every species has a cellular structure, or at least one that easily repairs itself through mitosis. Some species may not be able to get stronger or develop endurance by pushing themselves.

The Question: What fundamental principles of combat would allow virtually any species of any build to work together with other species as an effective combat team? What physical and strategic skills could be applied to develop all of my soldiers-in-training into a formidable fighting force?

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    $\begingroup$ "many of whom are not remotely humanoid." Causes some problems. Something built on the frame of, say, an aquatic mammal is going to have a very hard time operating in any sort of situation on the ground. You may need to narrow your definitions a bit. Because a flying jellyfish and a space-whale are just the edge of the 'bizarre' creatures that come to mind when you say 'not remotely humanoid' What about a sentient cloud of plasma? If we aren't grounding this in our modern knowledge of biology...I can basically whip up any piece of madness that I want, and call it good. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2015 at 20:53
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    $\begingroup$ Why would you want everyone to have the same training? Even with only humans, we divide people up into all sorts of different branches with different training; it seems multiple species would only make this more desirable. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Aug 19, 2015 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ It would be far easier to answer what you would do for a specific species instead of all of them. Worldbuilding usually comes with the headache of having to sort large amounts of data out manually like this. There is no general answer. $\endgroup$
    – skout
    Nov 28, 2019 at 1:18

5 Answers 5


First of all, before everything else, consider the logistics of the situation.

You have a massive military composed of several thousand different species that may or may not be compatible to each other. Have you played Mass Effect? Remember how every so often we're reminded that Turians and Quarians are built on dextro-amino acids instead of the levo-amino acids of the rest of the galaxy? This problem times a thousand. This means that your logistics corps will have to stockpile, and issue, thousands of different forms of meals, individual hygiene products, and medicines; they have to be labeled correctly and clearly - as soldier-proof as possible - as using the wrong products will, at best, not have any effect on the user and at worst trigger a fatal anaphylactic shock. This also means that medics in mixed-species units will have to carry large amounts of different medicines, medical supplies, trauma management kit, etc. for members of several different species who react very differently to trauma. We haven't even mentioned uniforms, equipment, prosthesis (for species who, say, cannot perform one thing or another to standard. Say a species that cannot create sounds in the frequencies most other species can hear), accommodation, and other services. To be frank, if I was a supply/logistics specialist in your Army, I'd quit.

Then, we have weapons. Firearms can be customized for different hands or tentacles or graspers or what have you. But this also complicates the supply situation. But bigger weapons systems might be a problem. Some species just cannot operate the artillery, for instance. Maybe they're not strong enough to haul the shells. Maybe they cannot withstand the overpressure.

So those are the problems. But how does one build a multispecies military? Well if you give the job to me, assuming I don't quit and become a raging alcoholic, this is what I would do:

  1. Classify ALL species into two categories: Combat units and Non Combat units. The Combat species must all be biologically and psychologically compatible with each other (meaning roughly humanoids, with roughly the same biological systems, eating the same food, and responds well to the same medicine). This will simplify matters as frontline fights get really messy even without the added complications of incompatible biological systems. This will greatly improve the logistics situation, minimize the amount of customization of weapons (aside for preference based customization like those for SOF units, for instance). This will also allow mixed species/gender units. Should keep things interesting for your story.
  2. All other species become support personnel, assigned based on their species traits. Analytical species can be intelligence analysts, and so on, and so forth. Since they are deployed as far from the fighting as possible, well, they probably wouldn't drain your system as much. They can bring their own food, etc. Of course they will have to be armed and trained in rudimentary self defense, but mostly their installations will have Combat Species guards assigned to it. This may also be another interesting thing for your story.

We haven't even touched maneuvers, TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, Procedures), inter-species prejudice, bigotry, ingrained cultural practices, etc. You're in for a headache, but good luck! Sounds interesting as hell.


"Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics." -Unknown

Which is not to say that hand-to-hand fighting or guns are unimportant - but those are very simple compared to your potential logistical issues.

For example, consider that in warm conditions humans are pretty unmatched distance runners. That's not because we like to run - that's an evolutionary advantage that we developed over millions of years. We have several distinct adaptions that make us really good at endurance tasks, especially in warm climates.

Now pair us with a species that had a different evolutionary strategy - say a cat that hunts in bursts, or a trap-door spider species. They simply won't be able to keep up, no matter how much training they go through. If you have to march, they're out of it.

This goes the other way, too. You might have aquatic species that are simply better in every single way than us in water, no matter what. Or a hard to see flying scout that laughs at human endurance, speeds and stealth.

What this means is that you are going to have some sort of species divide, not based on hand-to-hand capability, but on fundamental evolutionary strategies. It just doesn't make sense to try and force everyone into the same mold.

Obviously there are more categories, but you can - roughly - divide this into Stamina, Strength, and Speed. Keep in mind that having one means you trade in for the others, although you could have some that are in multiple groups (ex: strong and can go forever, but really, really slow).


Your Stamina races, including humans, are going to be at a large disadvantage in hand-to-hand combat. They can't compete with the raw strength or the top speed of other species. So they need to concentrate on their strengths - outlasting and range. In a 15-second fight, a human will almost always lose vs a cat. But if the human can drag things out, the cat is going to be out of gas and he gets the advantage back. Best strategies are guns, ambush, and running away. This category is also the most flexible logistically, as they can move long distances without powered gear. Stamina species will likely also require less calories in terms of effort, as they're evolved for efficiency.


Big and strong - think a bear species, or yetis. In hand to hand combat they're hard to hurt, but they won't be super fast either, and they'll tire faster. They also require a lot of calories, which is bad for long campaigns. In hand-to-hand they'll want to concentrate on grappling, which negates speed and endurance. For weapons, they should take advantage of their strength and be the heavies, carrying bigger weapons and more ammo than everyone else.


Absolute kings of one on one, probably either hand-to-hand or with weapons. Being faster than your opponent is a huge advantage, as you can avoid your opponent and shoot/hit them first. They'll want to concentrate on getting close and striking vulnerable/deadly spots. The downside is you don't last as long, and you can't carry as much as the strength species so your weapons and ammo are more limited.


It seems most answers failed to answer the question, so i will.

  1. Know your enemy. If you fail to do so, you will most certainly be defeated. study them. there should be an on-sight procedure for analyzing their anatomy.

  2. Know your self. Learn your anatomy, learn your strongest and weakest body parts. train yourself.

  3. Put 1 and 2 together. put your strongest parts to their weakest parts.


One size fits none.

Each species will maintain its own training, traditions, armaments, tactics, supply lines, unit designations, and practices. Each species will make equipment intercompatible only as much as it doesn't compromise functionality or increase manufacturing/development cost more than 20%.

Inter-species unit commanders will be kept informed of each species' unit classes and specifications, allowing them to pick their unit composition for each mission.


About the only thing would be teamwork. Learning how to work together as a team and learn and use the strengths of each member to their fullest. Knowing mental and physical limitations of your team mates would be especially critical.

So competitions. Scale that wall, fastest, or quietest. Ford the river, infiltrate an enemy camp.

Basic combat strategies and maneuvers will be VERY basic because, you need to know who or what you are fighting for more specialized training. You might be fighting an alien that doesn't have concentrated nerve tissue so shooting it in the head might just piss it off.

While basic maneuvers such as using different formations to look for enemy troops might be mostly useful, what if an alien can hide under the ground or burrow quickly through dirt? Or one can run through the trees like a lemur? Camouflage? What about chameleons? or cold blooded aliens. Can't see them, can't detect them with infrared...

So the training would be mostly learning what each species (and individual) is capable of doing so they all know when to depend on someone and when to help them out.


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