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

12670087_10153963273907082_3286283278008602244_nI’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:


Hill, Canal, and High Martians -- as portrayed in Chronicle City's version

Hill, Canal, and High Martians — as portrayed in Chronicle City’s version

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: