Last week, the game took the characters to Mars. The evening closed with a cliffhanger — the party having come through the Eye of Shambala onto the Martian plains in the late afternoon, just outside of a strange city, Elos Das from the Revelation of Mars sourcebook.  We established the half-gravity, compared to Earth and the thin air — on par with being at high altitude, but not so high as to instantly incapacitate…but that was it.

I was left with the choice of how much to use RoM, what to make my own to work with the elements of HEX and the Greco-Hindu mix of mythology that’s been hinted at, and whether to crib from my other favorite “planetary romance” source, Space: 1889. The RoM sourcebook has a decidedly Burroughs tilt toward it. The skyships in RoM have that spindly, alien look to them that was used in John Carter (really…not that bad an adaptation.) 1889 has a more traditional look to their cloudships. RoM seems to have a more “dead” Mars than 1889, which has cities and canals, and more habitable zones. So what to do?

Steal, brothers and sisters, steal! I decided all of the cities presented in Revelations of Mars will be present, and I’m using many of the Martian races — but not all. I’m losing the Saurian and Chitik, but keeping the Dheva as a wealthy class/race, the Zhul-Ya as the more common and poor race, and the Grodh (Gorilla Grodh…sigh…) as the equivalent of the savages of Mars. This parallels the High/Hill/Canal Martian slip of Space: 1889. I’m using the cloudships of 1889, as well; they’re prettier, a bit more realistic-looking, but what about their means of flight? I didn’t want liftwood and the RoM book is very hand-wavy…which isn’t going to work with my group. I decided to go with magnetic levitation that uses a form of “oridium” that the book cites as the ammunition for their blasters.

As for Mars, I’m using the Space: 1889 version, but with mods to fit in the RoM cities as stand ins for some of the Martian cities. There will be canals, many in various states of repair, some areas where water is still present under the surface (Valles Marineris). I’m keeping the “Great Machine” that is keeping everything from dying.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with it all…





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.


I finally got a few moments to work on converting some more of the ships from the old Space: 1889 game to the new Ubiquity version. We’ve already had a guest poster give his rules and reasoning behind his work, and now it’s my turn. The old Space: 1889 and the connected Sky Galleons of Mars boardgame were directed more at the old school minis and wargaming crowd. In fact, while I occasionally use minis to clarify certain battle scenes, Space: 1889 was the last game in which I would shift from roleplaying game to wargame when it was time for a fight.

Ubiquity really isn’t set up this style of play — not that you couldn’t find a way to combine the old school wargame with the more narrative-oriented play of the new game. To that end, my stats on the cloudships and aerial flyers of the Space: 1889 world will be more Ubiquity-directed, and may not satisfy the person looking for more “crunch” in their aerial antics over the sands of Mars; I direct those players to the link above.

So why are the stats what they are? Some are going to have similar complaints about the lack of uniqueness between the vessels. (Similar complaints were levied at Cortex, which could be made crunchy PDQ.) Here’s why the stats are what they are. Size — in Ubiquity, animals were lumped into size categories that were exponential. If you were a certain weight or size, you might jump to the next category, and at a certain point, it was assumed the Defense of the thing would be too great for you to do much harm. The ships are lumped into those size categories. Defense is usually just cribbed from similar vessels in the Secrets of the Surface World sourcebook, but a good rule of thumb would be assume the material (4 for wood, 6 for metal) and if armored, add half again (6 for wood, 9 for metal). The size of the vehicle is going to make it very easy to be hit, so Defense here is going to be based off the physical material.

Structure is pretty basic — what’s the material plus the size modifier. For instance a wood (4) ship of size 8 has a Structure of 12 as it’s base; a metal (6) one would be 14. To give a bit of variability, you could factor in armor, but what I’ve wound up doing is going with that base, then looking at the damage a vessel could take in Sky Galleons. An Aphid-class, for instance, has a total of 10 points for its hull, and 2 armor. I assumed the 14 and added 2 for the armor to get the Ubiquity version. A more massive ship that was still in the Size 8 category for physical size I rounded up a few points in the initial write-ups; Now I look at the armor and total structure. If it’s lower in the old rules, it gets boosted in the new; if it’s higher in the old rules, it gets that structure in the new rules (although a few places I’ve ignored that — like with the Warm Winds, which would have been stronger than an Iowa-class battleship.) I err on the weaker numbers in general on the assumption that liftwood vessels, as with all aircraft, have an inherent flaw…they lack support against gravity. Hit in the right place, do enough damage in the wrong place, and the superstructure can come apart, regardless of the overall damage taken. As any WWII combat pilot that got a wing shot off — the rest of plane might’ve looked great as it went into the ground like a f#$%ing dart.

I would suggest adding in the very low to very high altitude ceilings in your game. Divide the structure by the number of altitude zones, and assume that once that amount of structure is removed, the ship loses an altitude zone.

So here’s a few more Martian cloudships:

Sky Runner Medium Screw Galley

Wth five decks and a crew of 32, these screw galleys are usually out of the shipyards at Karkarham, but are found in service all over the Red Planet.

SIZE: 16   DEF: 4   STR: 20   SPD: 20   CEIL: VH   HAN: -2   CREW: ~32   COST: £25,600; WEAPONRY: 3 heavy guns (fore and wing mounted): Dmg: 8L   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2

Endtime Medium War Galley

This is the mainstay of the Oenotrian sky navy, and has been turned out in large numbers. It is the smallest vessel to mount a lob gun, and the heavier weight gives it limited ceiling and a sluggish speed, and the focus on firepower disadvantages these ships with shorter range of fire than the human gunboats.

SIZE: 16   DEF: 4   STR: 20   SPD: 15   CEIL: H   HAN: -2   CREW: 45   COST: £31,500: WEAPONRY: Rod gun (fore) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; Lob Gun (amidships) — Dmg: 10L   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 2 heavy guns (wing-mounted) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2.

Skyfire Heavy War Galley

The Oenotrian Sky Navy has two of these brutes in service. The design is conservative — a typical double deck forecastle, a thin spine to the five decked aft hull. The screw requires 42 people just to operate at full efficiency, and it is heavily armed and has a ram-prow (see below.)

SIZE: 16   DEF: 6   STR: 22   SPD: 15   CEIL: H   HAN: -4   CREW: ~95   COST: £105,400; WEAPONRY: 4 Rod gun (2 fore, 2 aft, behind bulkhead) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 2 Rouge gun (broadside, behind bulkheads) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 250′ Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 1; 8 heavy guns (broadside, behind bulkheads) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 10 tether mines — Dam: 12L   Rng: up to 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 1

Prow Ram: With a successful Pilot test, the Skyfire can do up to it’s DEF in damage to an opponent ship. With +1 success, the ship is stuck into the target and boarding can commence through a hatch in the ram, or from the main deck.

One thing Space:1889 fans might be interested in is actually using your aerial flyers and cloudships for the game. The basic rulebook covers just that — basics — but does not give the full statistics for even basic types of ships. So let’s rectify that, shall we?

1889_06Most of the stats for Ubiquity are based on size, and you can find similar vessels to model the other stats on, save speed — the old Space:1889 or Cloudships rules use a speed rating that is roughy 2 cables for a turn, but I didn’t want to bother with a ton of math and findingout what a round was in the board game aspects of theold rules. I used the travel times in the core book where a steam flyer could go 300 miles in a day. Assuming they don’t stop, that gives us roughly a speed of 12-15mph. Most of the ships have a speed rating of 4-6. Assuming that estimate of 300 miles is at a leisurely pace I’m giving the ships a speed in Ubiquity of 5mph/speed point in the old game mechanics.

Martian Screw Galley, Small

The typical example of this type of ship is the Small Bird or Fleetfoot-class galley. Manned by up to a crew of 20, these small vessels are driven by a man-powered crank in the lower deck and are slow and not especially maneuverable.

Small Bird Screw Galley —  SIZE: 8   DEF: 4   STR: 14   SPD: 10   HAN: -2   CREW: ~20 PASS: n/a   PRICE: £13,000

Fleetfoot Screw Galley — SIZE: 8   DEF: 4   STR: 12   SPD: 10   HAN: -2   CREW: ~10

Typically, these ships have little or no armaments, save for sweeper guns (essentially big blunderbusses: DMG: 6L   RNG: 250′ RATE: 1/2   SPD: S   SIZE: 0

Martian Screw Galley, Large

These mammoth screw vessels are typically between 90 and 130 feet in length, and have a draught of up to 50′, with crews of 60-100 personnel (about half of those yoked to the crankshaft.) Here we present a Hullcutter-class as the typical example:


SIZE: 8   DEF: 4   STR: 20   SPD: 15   HAN: -2   CREW: ~60   PASS: n/a   PRICE: £50,000 WEAPONS: Rouge Gun (foreward) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 250′ Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 1; Lob Gun (amidships) — Dmg: 10L   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 2 heavy guns (wing mounted) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; Rod Gun (aft) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2

Martian War Kite, Small

The Bloodrunner is the smallest class of warkite likely to be encountered on Mars. At only 50′ in length, with a single deck, these are fragile, but agile, things.

SIZE: 4   DEF: 6   STR: 10   SPD: up to 25   HAN: 0   CREW: ~10   PASS: n/a   PRICE: £7000; WEAPONS: sometimes they will carry a pair of heavy guns fore and aft: Dmg: 8   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2

Larger and more typical is the Swiftwood-class light warkite:

SIZE: 8   DEF: 4   STR: 16   SPD: up to 25   HAN: -2   CREW: ~40   PASS: n/a   PRICE: £20,000; WEAPONRY: Rouge gun (fore) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 250′ Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 1; 2 light guns (wing mounted) — Dmg: 6L   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 1; 2 sweepers — DMG: 6L   RNG: 250′ RATE: 1/2   SPD: S   SIZE: 0; Grapnel gun — Dmg: 4L   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/4   Spd: S   Size: 2

Martian War Kite, Large

Here is the Whisperdeath-class warkite as an example. These ships are roughly the size of a 18th/19th century sailing frigate:


SIZE: 8   DEF: 2   STR: 26   SPD: up to 25   HAN: -2   CREW: ~40   PASS: n/a   PRICE: £60,000; WEAPONRY: Rod gun (fore) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 4 heavy guns (2 aft, 2 wing-mounted) — Dmg: 8L   Rng: 250′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2; 1 Drogue Torpedo — Dam: 12L   Rng: up to 500′   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 1; 2 Fire Racks — Dam: 6L*   Rng: 20’**   Rate: 1/2   Spd: S   Size: 2

* Drogue torpedoes are dropped on a line from the underside of a ship, and must be maneuvered into the path of another vessel. ** Fire racks drop incendiary liquid onto the deck of a ship below. Wind and other effects can carry this up to 100′ out from the rack. If hit, the fire will continue to do damgage at a die less/turn vs. the STR of the ship.

Martian Merchant Kite

These massive merchantmen are represented here by the Warm Winds class of kite.

SIZE: 16   DEF: 4   STR: 30   SPD: up to 30   HAN: -2   CREW: ~50   PASS: ~10   PRICE: £113,000

Typically, these ships are not armed, but very well could be, if one were to sacrifice the extensive cargo capabilities.