The group met up tonight to pick up from the cliffhanger where they had found themselves on Mars instead of the “Second Earth”, Atlantia. While they tended to the wounded who had been rolled over by the minifighters that had exited the Eye of Shambala only to fall over and roll down the mound of marines, and tried to get the litle planes back on their landing gear, Zelansky was photographing their surroundings. He noted that the city they arrived next to had a larger “eye”-stlye gate that acted both as a portal, and as a door/gate to the city. Inside, the buildings seems to shift and more, changing, but in the center was a larger ziggurat with was surmounted by a strange object…a flying saucer much like those of the Atlanteans!

Suddenly, they realized they were being watched by three figures, very tall, dressed in white robes with red sashes. Their faces were disguised by featureless white masks. Yet, thy could hear these people in their heads, the language unfamiliar, but the concepts clear — “strange, one of them is a Vril-ya. I though they were dead or in the Celestial Keep. The other [Cointreau] has been touched by an ancient…but they are all asleep! How is this possible. They others, they’ve never seen their like; similar to the Zhul-ya, but not.” These creatures were quickly joined by more: strange humanoids with long arms and fingers, giant black eyes, none speaking but communicating directly to the characters’ minds. “The leader [Zelansky] is curious. The one touched by the ancient is larcenous, selfish, and weak; he is too dangerous to allow in the city. The Atlantean [Veitch]  is well-meaning but confused.”

Despite not having the same language, the characters are able to communicate. They are on Zhul — Mars, apparently — and Earth is “Vril” according to these things. The city is Elos Das, a term Zelansky thinks means either “hidden city” or “secret city”. The “people” are elosi — the hidden people or people of the secret. He’s not sure, the syntax is strange.

The creatures aided them with their injured, inspected the “crude but clever” Dogifsh minifighters, and examined the party. They find the marines bellicose. Far too dangerous to be allowed inside. Then, as a group, they turn to face northwest. Suddenly, they are headed back into the city, some of them simply disappearing as they go. The three “leaders?” inform them that there is food and water, two days march to the south, or to the northwest. In the northwest, they can see what the creatures saw: two ships in the air, sails out, coming for their position.

As they watch, the city twists and folds itself until it is gone without a trace. The marines spread out and prepare for hostilities, while Erha, O’Bannon, and Post get their Dogfish ready for the fight. The two ships separate, the larger one climbing, while the smaller bears in on them, firing a heat ray that carves a trench of molten glass in the sand and damaged Erha’s Dogfish. The three pilots get into the air, their minifighters faster but more unstable than ever.

The frigate or warship, or whatever it is, closes on the marines’ position while zelansky uses his math skills to aid the mortar crew in attacking the ship. Meanwhile, the Dogfish swoop and attack the craft, while getting fired at by strange cannons that shoot bolts of greenish light their way. These blasters miss the Dogfish, which are far too fast, and they successfully strafe the ship over and over. They noted that the crew of the larger ship seemed to be fighting each other, and they realized that it could be a prize for the smaller ships; perhaps they’ve been discovered by pirates?

The mortar rounds hit their target, and Cointreau finds himself using his Inspire to get the marine gunners to use their .30 machineguns to good effect. Eventually, the craft crashes into the sand near their position and the marines, led by Zelansky, Cointreau, and Veitch board and take the ship. they have to evacuate quickly, however, as the ship is on fire and eventually blows itself sky-high. The small crew is under guard by the marines, and their lone captive, a strange green woman with four arms! is being kept “safe” by Cointreau.

While this is happening, Post pulls a spectacular stall into a landing on the quarterdeck of the other skyship and gets them to surrender. Sure enough, the vessel was taken by the smaller ship, and the captain is a strange green-skinned man with four arms. Post is able to get them to land near the downed craft. Zelansky can talk to them; they speak a dialect of Atlantean. These green people are dheva (gods?), and the red-skinned people that crewed their ship, and that of the pirate vessel, are Zhul-ya, possible relatives of the Vril-ya!

They are able to talk their way into passage on the ship Warm Winds to Parras Das, the city “her highness” Priya, of the House Avasarava, is from. She is the first daughter of a powerful merchant prince in Parras Das, and she was taken captive by the pirates while being transported to a nearby city-state to a commercial negotiation. Priya is easily seduced by Cointreau, who finally gets a chance to try his “sex magic”, with high success (We decided that the tantrism thing he was going for seemed less a magic aptitude/ sorcery thing, than a psychic aptitude/ mind control thing, and changed the character to work more appropriately.)

The night ended with the characters spotting the spires of Parras Das, which sits on the conflux of two arrow-straight canal that stretch to the horizons. I opted for a fusion of the Revelations of Mars Barsoomian feel and that of Space: 1889, with its canals and zones of life for a mile or two around them. We’ve also got hints that the dheva are a royal or rich/aristocratic caste of Martian, whereas the “red Martians” or Zhul-ya are more common.

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

Presenting the 1869 Roper Velocepede — a dual-cylinder steam-powered motorcycle with a 1-ish horsepower motor. A later version in the late 1870s/early 1880s was a single-cylinder that produced 3HP and could hit a face-peeling 40 mph!

Here’s an example…and it still runs!

Here’s some specs for Hollow Earth Expedition or its Victorian-period game, Leagues of Adventure or the new Space: 1889

Size: 0   Def: 6   Struct: 4   Speed: 20   Han: 0   Crew: 1   Pass: 0


One of the few things that disappointed me about the Space: 1889 rules that came out recently was the lack of addressing Martian physiology in the rulebook. So here’s something more in line with what I expected for the new Ubiquity-powered game:


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:


Update: Looks like the boys at Clockwork, over in Germany — the originators of the Ubiquity Space: 1889 noted this piece and are interested in incorporating it into future productions. Might lead to some more work, which would be nice.

I remember the first time I saw the original GDW Space: 1889 in The Compleat Strategist near Rittenhouse Square– I was living in Philadelphia and the main games our group was playing were either superheroes (DC Heroes by Mayfair), or espionage games (using James Bond: 007) and cyberpunk Cyberpunk (by R. Talsorian.) The look of the game was intriguing enough, with the great David Dietrick art — one of the big boys in game cover art at the time — and a quick look through the interior was enough to get me hooked. There was a board game, Sky Galleon of Mars, that tied in and allowed you to make the jump from the RPG to a wargame and back, and there were about a dozen supplements and adventure books published before GDW died. I have the book I bought a quarter century ago sitting in front of me as I write this.

After a bit of stumbling to put together a game, I wound up running some form of Victorian science-fiction — usually in the Space: 1889 universe — from 1990 until 2004, when I started to drift toward ’30s pulp and Exile’s Hollow Earth Expedition. The game was one of the reasons I went into history, my specialty was Early Modern and Modern Europe until my doctorate (mostly due to the shoddy condition of the European section of the college) when I drifted into Modern US (which strangely coincided with my move to Hollow Earth Expedition.)

A few years ago, there was a Savage Worlds version of this, the original “steampunk” (gahd, how I hate that word!) game, and I have a PDF of that, as well, but never found SW made much sense, mechanically. Close to that time, it was announced that Clockwork in Germany was doing a version using Ubiquity — the rules set from Hollow Earth Expedition. In 2013, the Kickstarter for an English-language version was posted by Angus Abramson — who I worked for in the early days of Cubicle 7 on the Victoriana line — and his new Chronicle City house. I missed the Kickstart for this, having already blown dough on the Revelations of Mars book by Exile a month earlier (still not @#$%ing close to done…) Well, the PDF just dropped for sale yesterday with the print book not far behind, and I had a chance to do a quick read-through this afternoon.


The new book is very true to the original. There’s some difference in the verbiage and the arrangement of the book, but most of the setting is unchanged, with additional material for Germans on Venus that was most likely part of someone at Clockwork’s campaign prior to resurrecting the game. There is new artwork, some of which is an update of pieces in the original book, some of which is original. The quality is true to the original book, as well — mostly black and white pieces and the occasional color plate. The maps of Mars and Venus are updated and look better than the original, but when I looked at them side-by-side, they are “the same.” There is the alternate history from the original book — Edison’s flight in an airship with ether propeller to Mars, and the other alternate history moments. There’s a gazette for Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury. Here and there, you can see where the new publishers added bits and bobs to flesh out the worlds — new gadgets and gear, a few locations and “worlds in the ether”, etc.

Character generation is nearly the same as you would find in Hollow Earth Expedition, but there is a specific set of rules for older, more experienced characters that looks a lot like the character creation house rules we’ve been using for our HEX games. There are a few traits and flaws that are setting specific, the Status Resource is very slightly more fleshed out, but otherwise it’s the character generation from HEX. One of the things that I noticed was there were no real traits that differentiated the Martians from the human characters in the game. (Here’s my take on the setting species.) I would have expected something to take into account the acclimation to lower gravity and pressure, but Space: 1889 also has a much more friendly Mars than reality — heavier gravity and atmosphere than most alternate Mars settings. (Over a few campaigns, I started using a Mars with .5G, rather than the .9G of this game, and lower pressures, making mountain travel dangerous for Earthlings.)

Rules-wise, it’s Ubiquity: roll the number of dice (any even sided will do — even a coin) equal to your skill plus the connected attribute and beat the number of successes. It has the “take the average” than makes Hollow Earth Expedition work so well when fighting mooks and the like — the GM doesn’t have to do a lot of rolling and the action moves quickly; characters that just need a pass/fail result can take the average when they know it’s higher than the needed successes for the same reason — getting roll playing out of the way of role playing. If you know HEX, you can pick up and play this.

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. 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 mot 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; if you’re just curious..? No.

Extra Review Goodness!


So, let me stack this up against the closest thing to its peer — Leagues of Adventure, also a Ubiquity-powered game set in a Victorian science-fiction alternate universe. This one is published by Triple Ace Games. Again — the mechanics, character creation, etc. is no different from Space: 1889 or Hollow Earth Expedition, but there are a few places where Leagues of Adventure excels: in the character creation section, there is a great bit on the Rank Resource, and how it ties to the various real and invented clubs of the period. Being a member of a club was almost essential for the well-heeled gentleman, and certainly for the aristocrat. Like Space: 1889, the Status Resources is pretty sketchily defined, but at least Space:1889 makes room for people below the rank of peer or wealthy middle class (bravo!) Also, Leagues provides rules for Inventions — something Space: 1889 (like the original) glosses over. Characters as inventors seem to be an afterthought in Space: 1889, but there’s a nice set of rules for it in Leagues and a goodly selection of weird steam- and clockwork-powered science!

Style: 4 out of 5 — the Art is superior RPG quality, full color, and the layout is nicely done. Substance: There’s a lot on the society and the basics of the Victorian period, and the rules are more comprehensive than Hollow Earth Expedition was… 4 out of 5. Is it worth the price of $30 US for the book? Absolutely. Is it worth the $18 for the PDF — no. Buy the book.

Now, here’s my suggestion: I would be surprised if Clockwork and Chronicle City didn’t do some kind of reprint or series of splatbooks for Space:1889, and TAG already has one book out and another with weird inventions on the way…if you’re a Space; 1889 or Victorian speculative fiction RPG fan — buy them both and mix and match the bits and bobs you need to build up your setting. (It’s what I’m doing.)