I’ve already done a review of the PDF version of the game, but I’ve finally laid hands on a physical copy of the game. This was a game that loomed large in my gaming through the 1990s, and informed some of the Victorian sci-fi camapigns of the early 2000s. I still have the original copy of the GDW game, bought at Compleat Strategist in Philadelphia in 1989. Now I have the new Ubiquity-powered game from Clockwork Publishing out of Germany to complement it.
First off, this is the “premium” faux leather covered version of the book. They go for about $100. Production quality on the book is good — the fake leather feels nice and the gold embossing is well done. The binding is solid, and includes a bookmark ribbon in bronze. Good glossy paper, with a readable font in two columns per page, with black & white, grayscale, and color art throughout the book. One point of contention is the sizing. Rather than a typical 8.5×11 or 11.25″ book, like many game lines, this one is 8.5×12″, so it sits higher in the bookcase. The different aspect ratio looks nice, but might be a pain if you don’t have spacious bookshelves.
The new edition is very true to the original setting, but expands a bit on the original material of the game, mostly in dealing with Venus and the German colonies there, but also adds a bit on Mars and Mercury. Setting takes up much of the page count at 121 pages. The game rules are Ubiquity — the same system that powers Hollow Earth Expedition, the ’30s pulp game that usurped Victorian sci-fi in my group’s play rotation. There’s not much new to the rules beyond those found in HEX, same for bits on gravity on different worlds, and comes in at 80ish pages with character creation. One point where the new rules dropped the ball was on the Martian and Venusian characters…there’s no racial templates to give them their own flavor, so I cobbled some together based on the rules from Mysteries of the Hollow Earth and Secrets of the Surface World sourcebooks from the Hollow Earth Expedition line. They are presented below.
Style: The original game was pretty sharp for it’s time, with good color art and crappy line art for the rest; the new version is average RPG quality art for the black and white art, decent color. I’d go 3-3 1/2 out of 5 for the normal edition of the game, but the faux leather brings this edition up to a 4 out of 5.
Substance: Unless you plan on really digging into political intrigue and the like, the book is good enough to launch into a campaign that night, and the rules are complete enough to handle most situations — 4 out of 5. Is it worth the $56US for the print and pdf combo? If you are into this genre, yes; if you are an old Space:1889 fan that wants a better set of mechanics than the execrable ones from 1989, absolutely; and this edition with the swanky cover might be worth the $100 for the fans of the old game.
Space: 1889 is now available through the shop at Mödiphius.
Here’s the templates for the main alien races of the setting:
The denizens of Mars have three major racial types — the Hill Marian, found in the desolate wastes of the Red Planet; the Canal Martians, found almost exclusively in the urban and canal-fed areas of the world; and the High Martians — thought to either be the “Ur” Martian, or possibly a Hill Martians evolved to the particular environment of mountainous Mars.
Using some of the Beastmen advantages from Mysteries of the Hollow Earth (pg. 14-25), I slapped together Martian character templates that were more in keeping with the original flavor of the game:
Venusians aren’t set up as a player character in either any of the editions of Space: 1889, but I’m sure there are folks out there that might want to give them more to do in their campaign than be a poor man’s Sleestak. So here is a Template, vikked from Hollow Earth Expedition‘s Mysteries of the Hollow Earth to use to create a player character Venusian: