Here are a few of the Royal Navy aerial flyers currently active in 1889…

Aphid-Class Aerial Gunboat


The Aphid-class was the first aerial gunboat designed by the Royal Navy, and one of the most successful. While small at 130′ in length, and 50′ in beam, and hastily constructed in 1881, they are well armed and have some thin metal-clading to protect the crew in combat.

In 1886, these vessels underwent refit to use forced draught boilers that kept the same horsepower, but lowered the total mass of the vehicle, allowing for the use of a long-four gun, rather than the original short-four without loss of performance.

Currently, there are four of these gunboats in operation: Aphid constructed in 1881 is stationed at Parhoon, Ladybug (built 1881, lost 1887), Sandflea (built 1882) at Meepsoor, Firefly (built 1882, lost 1889), Wasp (built 1888) stationed at Syrtis Major, Hornet (1888) at Parhoon. Two are under construction — Honey Bee and Bumble Bee and both are expected to launch in weeks.

SIZE: 8   DEF: 4   STR: 14   SPD: 30   CEIL: VH   HAN: -2   CREW: 15   COST: £23,330; WEAPONRY: 4′ short cannon (fore*) — Dmg: 10L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 2 1 lb. Hotchkiss Rotary Cannons (side mount) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S Size: 2; 2 Nordenfeldt machineguns (broadside) — Dmg: 5L   Rng: 250′   Cap: 40 (m) Tate: A   Spd: S.

*The upgraded Aphid has a 4″ long gun on the fore — Dam: 10L   Rng: 750′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2.

Locust-class Aerial Gunboat

The first ship designed and built for the Royal Navy on Earth, these are essentially Aphid-class gunboats reworked for Earth’s gravity. For that reason, these boats have less armor and smaller guns to compensate for the needs of terrestrial flight.

The original chief of construction wanted to forgo the minimal armor for more firepower and has been critical of the performance of the vessels, but the Admiralty currently anticipates no changes to the design.

There are five Locust-class gunboats in service on Earth: Locust, built in 1886, and Dragonfly (1887) serve with the Channel Fleet; Tse Tse (1887) with the Pacific Fleet; Yellowjacket  (1887) with the Mediterranean Fleet, and Grasshopper (1888) with the Atlantic Fleet.

SIZE: 8   DEF: 4   STR: 13   SPD: 25   CEIL: VH   HAN: -2   CREW: 15   COST: £24,500; WEAPONRY: 4′ short cannon (fore an stern tower) — Dmg: 10L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 2 1 lb. Hotchkiss Rotary Cannons (side mount) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S Size: 2; 2 Nordenfeldt machineguns (broadside) — Dmg: 5L   Rng: 250′   Cap: 40 (m) Tate: A   Spd: S; 2 rocket batteries (one upward, one downward firing) — Dam: 6L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2.

Dauntless-Class Aerial Gunboat

The sleek Dauntless looks lovely, and performs poorly. Much of the problem stems from the slight transit the turreted forward 4″ long gun has, providing only a limited angle of fire to the front. The armor makes the ship heavy and slow to turn. Conventional boilers were replaced with forced draught boilers for HMS Danger and after.

courtesy of Mateen Greenway

courtesy of Mateen Greenway

There are only two of these aerial flyers in service: Dauntless built in 1884 patrols Syrtis Major, Daring was launched in 1886 and lost within weeks, and Danger, launched in 1887 and on station at Parhoon.

SIZE: 8   DEF: 4   STR: 14   CEIL: VH   HAN: -2   CREW: 15   COST: £23,330; WEAPONRY: two 4′ short cannon (forward turret and stern tower) — Dmg: 10L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 2 3 lb. Hotchkiss Rotary Cannons (wing mount) — Dmg: 9L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S Size: 2; 2 Nordenfeldt machineguns (broadside) — Dmg: 5L   Rng: 250′   Cap: 40 (m) Tate: A   Spd: S.


Today, we have a guest post from one of our readers, Tupper. He has taken a whack at putting together a conversion hack to bring cloudsps and aerial flyers across from the old Space: 1889 system onto Ubiquity, which powers the new game. For those who like more “crunch” or more tactically-oriented games, Ubiquty can feel very hand-wavy. It’s bult for speed of narrative, not as a tactical simulator. Toby gives a good account of why he chooses to do things the way he does, and fans very familiar with the Size rules may chafe at some of his choices. That said, he’s done a lot of work on this, so have a look!

In this blog post, I’m going to reason through how to convert old (“Sky Galleons of Mars”) Space 1889 ships into the Clockwork Ubiquity system. In doing this, I’m going to make use of “Secrets of the Surface World”, which presents more vehicle rules for Hollow Earth Expedition.

Before I start calculations, one difference between “Sky Galleons of Mars” and the Clockwork Ubiquity system is the treatment of gun crews. In the Clockwork equipment section, a Nordenfelt machinegun, for example, has a crew of 5, as was the case historically, whereas in “Sky Galleons of Mars” one gunner is sufficient for this gun. With this in mind, for Ubiquity gaming, I suggest a revision of some of the gun crews, and, for smaller guns, a revision of their weight (larger guns have sufficient extra weight to account for large crews). To obtain gun crew sizes, I examined two documents. The “Ordnance Instructions for the United States Navy” (1866) gives crew numbers for smoothbore guns, while the “Manual for Victorian Naval Forces” (1887 and 1889) gives crew numbers for breach-loading cannons. I summarise some common guns below
Gun Crew Weight Cost

5 barrel NF. 5 15 200

1 pdr HRC. 3 10 220

3 pdr HRC. 3 11 240

6 pdr HRC. 3 13 280

3-4″ RBL. 6 see SGoM see SGoM

5-6″ RBL. 7 see SGoM see SGoM

8″ RBL. 10 300 3000

Sweeper 1 6 200

Light 5 20 400

Heavy 7 40 1000

Rod 7 30 800

Rogue 21 60 2000

Lob 25 200 2000
Note that the changes in weight for machine guns above may make some original designs (such as the Aphid) invalid. To get around this, a ship can reduce its number of gunners, saving 2.5 tons and £20 for each gunner removed. This was common practice on many ships, where sufficient gunners were carried to handle only one broadside’s guns. In the event of being engaged on both sides, guns would have to be operated short-handed.

In thinking about vehicle stats, the first consideration is how to handle size. To do this, I’m going to base my calculations on some observations from Clockwork’s Space 1889 and “Secrets of the Surface World”. A tramp steamer (size 8) with no armour, and presumably a steel hull, has defence of 8, and structure 24. In contrast, a size 4 yacht, presumably wooden, has a defence of 4, and structure 14. Assuming structure is the sum of passive defence and some structure level, this gives a “base structure” for size 4 vehicles of 10, and size 8 vehicles of 16. Moving further up the scale, a MacKenzie’s leviathan, which weighs around 1400 tons (scaling its size from a 12′ pleisiosaur weighing 992 lbs gives a fair amount of heft to a 170′ monster), has a size of 16, and a “base structure” of 23. At the highest end of the scale, the 29,000 ton USS Arizona has a “base structure” of 28, and the 37,000 ton IJN Kirishima has a base structure of 30.
Using these numbers as a starting point, we can construct a table for weights, base structures and sizes:

Weight Size Base Struct. Weight Size Base Struct.

20+ 4 10 1000+ 14 22

25+ 5 12 1200+ 15 23

30+ 6 14 1400+ 16 23

40+ 7 16 5000+ 16 24

50+ 8 18 10000+ 16 25

100+ 9 19 15000+ 16 26

200+ 10 20 20000+ 16 27

400+ 11 21 25000+ 16 28

600+ 12 21 30000+ 16 29

800+ 13 22 35000+ 16 30
I’d calculate a zeppelin’s stucture as above, but treat it as having a size of 16 otherwise, on account of its huge balloon.

The next piece of the puzzle is passive defence. Here we know that the steamer (steel) has passive defence 8, the yacht (wood) has passive defence 4, and (from “Secrets of the Surface World”) the Graf Zeppelin has passive defence 2. The Arizona has a passive defence of 20, which, given that Space 1889’s pre-Dreadnought battleships (see “Ironclads and Ether Flyers”) have armour at most 7, makes 1 point of “Sky Galleons of Mars” AV being equivalent to 1 point of Ubiquity passive defence seem reasonable.
Speed is measured in 200 yard hexes per half minute in “Sky Galleons of Mars”. Converting that to miles per hour gives one point of speed being 3.4mph.
Lastly, to calculate handling, “Sky Galleons of Mars” ships have a maximum altitude between Low and Very High, so Medium or Low gives -2 handling, High gives -1, and Very High gives 0.
In terms of weaponry, “Secrets of the Surface World” gives gun sizes ranging from Light (8L) to Massive (24L). I’m going to assume a 3″ gun is light, and a 16″ gun is Massive. Spreading the increments of damage as best I can gives some typical Space 1889 guns as:

Gun Damage ROF Range Gun Damage ROF Range

1pdr HRC 6L A 1300′ 8″ RBL 12L 1/8 4500′

3pdr HRC 6L A 1500′ Light Gun 6L 1/4 1000′

6pdr HRC 6L A 2000′ Heavy Gun 8L 1/4 1500′

3″ RBL 8L 1/4 2500′ Rod Gun 8L 1/8 2500′

4″S RBL 9L 1/4 2500′ Rogue 9L 1/8 2500′

4″L RBL 9L 1/4 3000′ Lob Gun 10L 1/8 1300′

5″ RBL 10L 1/4 4000′ Drogue 13L — —

6″ RBL 11L 1/4 4000′ Liquid Fire 3L/hit — —
Rates of fire are based on the observation that a Sweeper has rate of fire 1/4, so a gun that fires each round in “Sky Galleons of Mars” can fire every fourth round in Ubiquity. For ranges, I’ve extrapolated from the performance of the 1 pdr HRC given in the Clockwork Space 1889 rulebook. With the rod gun, I’ve given it the same damage as the heavy gun since it has higher penetration but lower damage in “Sky Galleons of Mars”. With Liquid Fire, one could assume that the dropper makes a touch attack on the target (ignoring passive defence) and then each hit starts a 3L fire, causing caustic damage to the attacked ship (which can ignore half its size in dice each round).

To see how this works in action, let’s draw up some ships. I’ll do two, the Aphid, and the Hullcutter.

Aphid Gunboat SIZE: 9 (160 tons) DEF: 10 STR: 27 SPD: 20 HAN: 0 CREW: 14 gunners, 4 bridge crew, 2 engineers, 2 deck hands, 1 officer, and 2 petty officers (25 total) PASS: n/a PRICE: £23,380; WEAPONRY: 4″ short cannon (forward sponsoon; 6 crew) — Dmg: 9L Rng: 2500′ Rate: 1/4 Spd: S Defence: 8; 2 x 1 lb. Hotchkiss Rotary Cannons (wing sponsoons; 3 crew ea.) — Dmg: 6L Rng: 1300′ Rate: A Spd: S Defence: 8; 2 x Nordenfeldt machineguns (broadsides; 5 crew ea.) — Dmg: 5L Rng: 1000′ Cap: 40 (m) Rate: A Spd: S Defence: 8. ENDURANCE: 20 days.
Note that the guns are unarmoured, so have a lower defence than the rest of the ship. Comparing this to Black Campbell’s scores, my version racks up a heftier defence and structure, along with a longer range. However, on the flip side, the ship’s main gun packs less punch, and the vehicle is a bit slower. The ship has a reduced gunnery complement, meaning that it can man its 4″ short cannon and both HRC cannons with no difficulty, or the 4″ short cannon one HRC and one Nordenfelt (a broadside).

The Hullcutter illustrates the diminishing gains from size in terms of structure in the Ubiquity system, coupled with the dangers of being wooden with no armour:

Hullcutter Screw Galley SIZE: 12 (700 tons) DEF: 5 STR: 25 SPD: 10 HAN: -1 CREW: 74 gunners, 4 bridge crew, 21 turncranks, 7 deckhands, 6 officers (112 total) PASS: 10 marines PRICE: £52,820 WEAPONS: 2 x Rogue (forward sponsoon; 21 crew ea.) — Dmg: 9L Rng: 2500′ Rate: 1/8 Spd: S Defence: 5; Lob Gun (amidships; 25 crew) — Dmg: 10L Rng: 1300′ Rate: 1/8 Spd: S Defence: 5; 2 x heavy guns (wing sponsoons; 7 crew ea.) — Dmg: 8L Rng: 1500′ Rate: 1/4 Spd: S Defence: 5; Rod Gun (aft sponsoon; 7 crew) — Dmg: 8L Rng: 2500′ Rate: 1/8 Spd: S Defence: 5.
It has a hefty set of ordnance, but its structure and defence are less than the Aphid. My design is again a bit more kind to its defence and structure than Black Campbell’s. I give its bigger guns more punch, but at the expense of having a very low rate of fire. In a battle with the Aphid, the Hullcutter has to fire its guns, and then ram and board, or it will face getting ripped to shreds by the Aphid’s more rapid fire. Similar to the Aphid, some compromises are needed to keep the weight to 700 tons, and the Hullcutter can only operate one of its heavy/rod guns at a time, if both its rogues and lob gun are in action.

Thanks, Tupper, for sharing your conversion thoughts with us. A pdf of these rules is archived here. SCR

Next up, the ubiquitous steam-powered aerial flyer, and the Aphid-class aerial gunboat of the Royal Navy on Mars:

Aerial Steam Launch

SteamLaunchRightThese little craft are made by a few different purveyors in the colonized cities of Mars, and there are a few making these liftwood craft for Earth, as well. They are typically about the size of a water-bound steam launch.

SIZE: 4   DEF: 6   STR: 12   SPD: 20   HAN: 0   CREW: 2   PASS: 4   PRICE: £4,000

Aphid-class Aerial Gunboat

space-1889-lThe first of its kind, the Aphid class is the workhorse for the British Empire’s holdings in the Syrtis Major region. 65 feet in length, well armed for her size, and caable of speed up to 30mph, these small craft conduct aerial treasury activities throughout the colony.

SIZE: 8   DEF: 4   STR: 14   SPD: 30   HAN: -2   CREW: 15   PASS: n/a   PRICE: £23,000; WEAPONRY: 4′ short cannon (fore) — Dmg: 10L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 2 1 lb. Hotchkiss Rotary Cannons (side mount) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S Size: 2; 2 Nordenfeldt machineguns (broadside) — Dmg: 5L   Rng: 250′   Cap: 40 (m) Tate: A   Spd: S

German Passenger Zeppelin

These lighter-than-aircraft are held aloft by hydrogen cells inside a rigid framework. The passengers reside in a car that is attached at the bottom of the hull.

SIZE: 16   DEF: 2   STR: 18   SPD: 50   HAN: -2   CREW: 15   PASS: 10   PRICE: £20,000