Friday, April 8, 2011

Space: 1889 -- auf Deutsch, bitte.

What you see above is the final version of the cover for the upcoming Space: 1889 from Germany. Patric Goetz of Ulisses Spiele (Ulysses Games) is managing the project, but it will be released under his own label Uhrwerk Verlag (Clockwork Publishing). What a great name for a Steampunk publisher. This is a very exciting project, in the works for about two years now, and you heard it here first! It is not a simple translation of the original game, but rather a new design with more modern game mechanics -- if "modern" is the right word for a Steampunk game -- while faithful to the Space: 1889 world background and mood. The manuscript is in good shape and they are working on art (some very nice art!) as we speak. The likely release date is October of this year. 

Of course, this edition will be in German, so English speakers will have to content themselves with the classic edition, available from Heliograph, Ltd, and the Red Sands of Mars/Savage Worlds version. If the German edition is a big hit, however, I've promised to consider a licensed translation of the German edition into English. The idea of an English translation of a German edition of an American game is a little weird, I know, but I'm okay with weird.


While we're on the subject of Germany, here's the new version of the German background. It is largely unchanged, and in some respects is closer to the historical Germany than that in the original Space: 1889.

Bismarck’s guidance of Prussia and then Germany has resulted in unification of the North German states under Hohenzollern rule and an alliance with Great Britain which guarantees German security on the continent. Faced by a common enemy in Communard France, the Anglo-German alliance proved profitable to both parties until 1885, when the Tournai Incident brought France and Germany to war over a French border dispute with Belgium. Great Britain intervened on the side of its allies, Germany and Belgium, but the British were willing only to reestablish the status quo. The elderly Helmut von Moltke, the German Chief of Staff, favored using the Belgian War as a pretext to march on Paris and crush the Commune, but Bismarck and the Kaiser followed the British lead, a move highly unpopular with the Army. Von Moltke resigned soon afterwards.

Early in 1888 Wilhelm I died and was succeeded by Wilhelm II, a headstrong ruler whose sentiments were more  in tune with the Army's. He immediately created the Luft-Kabinett, a senior bureau responsible for greatly increasing air power, and appointed the Graf von Zeppelin its first head. The new Kaiser grows impatient with the British alliance, as British support is limited and, even on continental matters, subject to British policy interest first. On areas outside the continent, however, the British expect unconditional German support. The Kaiser believes Germany must look to its own security and its own future, and is charting a course separate from Britain’s. Bismarck resists this at every opportunity, but knows he has lost favor and his days of power are drawing to a close.

The Luft-Kabinett operates its own intelligence branch which works increasingly in rivalry with the British. The Imperial German Army's own intelligence branch still nominally respects the alliance, but many young and politically active officers feel otherwise, and loyalties are divided between the official policy of the government -- Bismarck and the "old school" -- versus the new policy of the young Kaiser.

Bavaria occupies a unique position within the German empire. It is a kingdom, but it is also part of the empire. As a practical matter, this means it has considerable internal autonomy, and its own security and military forces, but follows Berlin's dictates with respect to foreign policy. Anti-Prussian sentiment runs high, however, and there is considerable sympathy for neutral Austria, which was humbled by Prussia in 1866.


  1. Okay, what happened to Frederich III? He was next in line of succession when Wilhelm I kicked it.
    I know he relatively short reigh but I didn't realize that it was completely invisible.:-)

  2. Frank F,
    Well, the short answer to "What happened to him?" is that he died of cancer, but I suspect you knew that :^). The slightly longer answer is that for the entirety of his very brief reign he was fighting the disease and had no effect on German policy, foreign or domestic. So I glossed over him.

  3. Fair enough. Frederich III is seen by a number of European historians as a sort of "last great hope" to save Germany from militaristic conservatism. I've read where he actually had a number of reform decress drawn up but died before he had a chance to sign them.
    There were two assasination attempts on his father, Wilhelm I in 1878. I've often wondered if they had succeeded and Frederich had a ten year reign instead of a few months.

  4. I like Ulisses Spiele are doing. They also bought TORG recently. My German isn't good enough for me to consider buying games in German, but if they start publishing material for their games in English, they will have my attention!

  5. Harvard,
    Welcome. I'm looking forward to the game as well. I made a slight correction in the blog main entry above. The game is being produced by Patric Goetz of Ulisses Spiele, but it will be released under the Uhrwerk Verlag (Clockwork Publishing) imprint.

  6. Fredrich III was one of the cornerstones of public emnity between Germany and England (he would have lived if his English wife hadn't insisted on a second opinion by an English doctor who insisted he didn't need to be treated for cancer).
    England had two foreign policys at the time
    1) Always ally with a weaker European power becasue allying with a strong one makes them the junior partner
    2) Go to war if neccessary to keep any great power out of Belgium (that was actually Englands reasons for entering WW1)

    The German cover looks wonderful, fingers crossed the game is a hit.

  7. Oh and the comment of Neutral Austria?
    From this can we assume that Germany, secure in its alliance with England dosn't feel the pressing need to prop up the Austro-Hungarian Empire that it did oin our history?
    That could be an interesting twist in essentially giving visitors two great empires falling apart in different ways (Austro_hungarian thorough fragmentation and the Ottoman through dissolution)

  8. Not weird at all!

    Chaosium, Inc. published the limited availability source book, Mysteries of Morocco in English. It was translated and published in German, then came back in English as Secrets of Morocco a couple of years ago or so...

  9. Andrew,
    I think your analysis of British and German policy at this time is spot-on, although the addition of a "revolutionary" power on the continent could complicate things a little. Still, British policy throughout this time was to maintain a balance of power, not put someone on top of the heap -- hence the 1885 intervention to keep the French out of Belgium, but the unwillingness to help Germany crush France once war was joined.

    As Germany becomes disillusioned with the British alliance, it will undoubtedly turn to Austria.

    The real monkey wrench in the works is that France and Russia are now non-starters with respect to an alliance, since Communard France is not about to align itself with the most absolutist and hidebound regime in Europe -- any more than the czar is likely to make common cause with a bunch of crazy revolutionaries who want to do things like educate the serfs, for crying out loud.

    This means czarist Russia pushes pan-slavism even harder than it did historically, gaining as much influence in the Balkans as it can manage. As that spills over into unrest along the Austrian frontiers, France tries to form an anti-Russian alliance of its own with Austria, and Turkey. It's a hard sell, and no telling how it will come out, but the result is a lot of intrigue in the Balkans and very ambiguous and unsettled relations between different countries.

  10. Pookie,
    Your proof that this isn't weird is that Chaosium did it? I think they would be offended to discorver you think them so mundane.

  11. Well, I would have have liked to have a healthy Friedrich III who was cured by some miracle drug made from a Venusian plant. Hie Anglophilia would make combined British-German parties even more natural.

    Your comments regarding Russian Pan-Slavism lets me wonder how you will describe the Balkans. To be frank, I did not like the map in Conklin's with its Ruritania, Graustark etc. at all. Will the 1875 to 78 Balkans crisis have happened the same way, or is there a Greater Bulgaraia as Russian protegé? Or were the Ottomans more successful with their reforms and kept their Balkans territories? Personally I would like a resurgent Ottoman Empire with its own planetary colonies beneath the crescent flag.

  12. Max,
    Welcome to the group and thanks for commenting. The 1875 to 78 crisis played out the same, so there is no Greater Bulgaria. Serbia, on the other hand, is very active along its shared frontiers with Austria and the Ottomans. Although the Balkans have followed a largely historical course up to about 1885, I don't rule out a resurgent Ottoman empire.

  13. Looks like "the Sick Man of Europe" may be feeling better these days.

  14. Historically it was a tough time for the Ottomans. Britain and France had been allies in the Crimean War, in the mid 1850s, but public opinion in Britain turned sharply against Turkey after the Bulgarian incidents in the late 1870s. The Turks, faced with revolt throughout the Balkans, responded with raids in Bulgaria using poorly disciplined irregulars (bashi-bazooks), who carried on about how you would expect. The Turks were showered with invective from the West, which left them puzzled. They were, I believe, psychologically unprepared for the double standard Western Europe would apply to most conflicts involving a Christian and a non-Christian power. The exception made for the Crimean War (and conflicts with Russia in general) certainly lulled the Turks into the false sense they were part of "the club" -- they weren't, and by 1880 they knew it.

    Historically it was a natural pivot point for Ottoman attitudes and policy. Turkey comes through the crisis years of the 1870s better than they did historically, one difference in the Space: 1889 world being that the Ottomans retained control of Bosnia-Herzegovina after 1878, whereas historically it was occupied by Austria-Hungary.

  15. Hi, It's Max again. Thanks a lot for your answers and the warm welcome.
    IIRC, the Austrian occupation of B-H was the reason why Austria-Hungary accepted any Russian gains (and thy still felt betrayed by Russias perceives greed in Bulgaria) So in this timeline, the antagonism between Vienna and St.Petersburg will be even stronger, I guess. Ouch.

    It looks like an agreement (not necessarily a formal alliance) beteween the UK, Germany, Belgium, A-H, the Ottoman Empire to contain communard France as well as pan-slavistic Russia is extremely likely. That sounds really good. plotwise.

  16. Looks like that "Sick Man of Europe" is definitely feeling better. Very, very interesting.
    What do these changes mean for the Confederacy? I'm really having a problem seeing communard France allying itself to a slaveholding nation. I could, however, the Brits doing so well at least under the table to keep the US off balance.

  17. How about those Bavarians! In my S1889 universe, King Ludwig is deposed in 1886 but does survive the attempt. He flees to Mars where he styles himself the Duke of Franconia and spends his time studying Martian art. He has stated formally that he has no desire to return to Earth or the throne of Bavaria.

  18. Frank,
    Paying off his mountain of debts would be a good trick as well. Bavaria itself is close to the historical Bavaria in Space: 1889, with Luitpold's regency having settled things down and no one missing Ludwig once he was gone. For the moment I am agnoistic on the subject of Ludwig's escape. It has not been important to anything I've done with the history to date so I will probably put off deciding his fate until I have to -- which is to say when it becomes important to a story line.

  19. Fair enough Frank. BTW, January 30th, 1889 is when the Mayerling Incident takes place. Kronprinz Rudolph, heir to the Habsurg throne and his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera are found dead at Rudolph's huniting lodge. The conventional wisdom is murder-suicide. However, in my version of events, it doesn't happen. On January 30th, 1889, Rudolph is on his way to Mars along with his wife for a grand tour. While he's gone, Baroness Vetsera will be quietly removed to an isolated convent or otherwise disposed of.
    While he is on Mars, Rudolph will be attending a formal reception in Syrtis Major with his wife. Among the other guests will be Ludwig, Duke of Franconia. This is simply too good an opportunity to pass up. There are several factions who would like to see both men dead and the British very much embarassed.
    It makes for a great dastardly plot for an intrepid band of heroes to foil.
    BTW, will there an official update book?

  20. "The idea of an English translation of a German edition of an American game is a little weird, I know, but I'm okay with weird."
    This comment reminded me of a book about the TV show "Hogan's Heroes" I came across many years ago. As I recall, it discussed how when the show was released in Germany the powers involved knew that, in addition to the Nazi elements of the show, the concept of Allied heroes running circles around bumbling Germans was going to be a tough sell in Germany; So they made the German antagonists foolish in the extreme (I recall a plot to bomb London with condoms) and washed over the Nazi elements with humorous antics (e.g. substituting the "Heil Hitler" salute with "This is how high the corn grows"). This sounded so weird it made me want to see an English version of the German version of the American show.

  21. I always wondered who German gamers would play in space 1889.
    I'm from Australia so playing an Englishman or American isn't a huge stretch, but I always wondered if a German Translation would have adventures of heroic Prussian soldiers protecting the Kaisers holdings on Venus or trying to stop French enroachment on Mars.

  22. Andrew,

    Interestingly enough, I suggested the same thing, but Patric has decided to go with a more traditional Anglo-centric background. The truth is that when most folks think of Victorian-era adventure, they think British, regardless of their counbtry of origin.

  23. Hearing of the quality of German RPGs, and knowing the enduring popularity of Space 1889, I can't see how an English translation of the upcoming game won't be anything but a winner on all accounts.

    I therefore enthusiastically encourage you to consider such a translation.

  24. Alex,
    Thanks. You're certainly right about the quality of German games. Germany takes games much more seriously (in a good way) than do we. We have nothing like the Nurenberg Game Fair.

  25. I'm very much looking forward to this new version of Space:1889, that is, if I can get it in English :) This in no way takes away from the German quality argument, but I'd like to point out to those who don't know, this new game is based on the Ubiquity system originated with Hollow Earth Expedition. This is a really good RPG ruleset, and paired with Mr. Chadwick's fantastic world should be a real winner.

    As an aside, I'm very glad to see so much 1889 activity of late. It's been a long wait :)

  26. Harrier,
    Welcome and thanks for the kind words about the world. I like it myself. :^)I'm also looking forward to the German edition.