Friday, September 30, 2011

A Very Cool Space: 1889 Animation

Check this out! Link

It is a fan annimation presenting a steampunk "Google Earth" look at Mars in the Space: 1889 universe. It's in German, but so what?

Way cool!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More Mars Needs Steam Photos

As promised, here are some additional photos of the Mars Needs Steam game, these from Phil Tortorici. Phil also loaned me the "Lost Martian City" (looking remarkably like an Afghan hill village) which featured prominently in the second and third games. Although it was built by another friend, Phil did a lot of additional work on it, making all of the roofs removable so figures can be placed inside the buildings. We see in this picture the American scientific party (with escort) entering the lost city. Phil took his pictures in sepia, which is a nice period effect.

Here is a more panoramic view of the Lost City. It was built in two parts and when put together covered about three feet by four and a half feet, with twisting rabbit-warren streets, overhanging balconies, all sorts of great stuff. It really was an impressive terrain piece and it helped further break up the table into lots of small clearings. That helps the feel of the game a great deal. The game tends to bog down if there are lots of open spaces -- who wants to start walking across an enormous open plain when the other gun has a field gun and a Maxim machine gun?

Phil has a thing for garden gnomes, which seem to magically appear when he photographs something. (The Gnome was not part of the game.) This is a nice rear view of one of Frank Frey's steam tanks, here being used as mechanical traction for a 3-inch field gun. I don't know the manufacturer of this particular tank, but if anyone does, send it in as a comment. It's a resin tank modeled generally on a German World War I A7V, but a bit smaller and with simplified lines (and, of course, a smoke stack).

This shows a longer view of the city from a different angle, with an American 3-inch field gun unlimbered and ready to open fire in the foreground. This is from the third game and the head of on e of the two Bavarian players, who would end up vcitorious, is just visible above the city.

More Americans, this time advancing infantry. (Can you tell Phil was one of the two American commanders?)

And here is a nice picture of the last turn of the final game. Just visible in the top center is the Bavarian overall leader, Count von Lager, replete in formal wear but still packing a revolver which he used to hold off a gaggle of Americans so his men could withdraw behind him. This was not long after the Bavarians had turned on the Prussians and mercilessly gunned down the Prussian naturalist Frau Bluecher. The Bavarians pushed deep into the city and snatched a number of artifacts almost from under the Americans' noses, and went on to win a convincing victory. Long live Bavaria!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mars Needs Steam at Hurricon

I just returned from Hurricon in Orlando, FL. Very good show, well-attended, and a great atmosphere of relaxed fun. I saw some old friends (Frank Frey, Richard Borg), made a bunch of new ones.

I also ran three games of Mars Needs Steam – really big games, this time with a full assortment of steam-powered war wagons, troops, monsters, and scientists. I had about eight players each for the first two sessions and twelve for the last one. Exhausting but a great deal of fun.

Me and Frank Frey. Frank provided the figures and terrain for the games at Hurricon.

Most of the troops and terrain were supplied by Frank Frey, and they looked very good. I added a few French to the mix and purchased a couple surplus Star Wars models to stand in for German walkers. They look pretty good as-is, but I’ll have them heavily modified as steampunk vehicles by their next outing.

Prussian Infantry follow the advancing walker. You can see from this picture of the unmodified Star Wars toy that it has tremendous conversion possibilites.

The game pitted French, Americans, Confederates, Prussians and Bavarians against reach other. It featured a delightful number of double-crosses and lots of laughter in every game. And I actually have pictures this time!

A French naval landing party mans a 20-pounder field gun. In the background is a rare photo image of the beautiful but deadly French spy Gabrielle Courbiere.

This first batch of pictures were provided byone of those new friends, the lovely and vivacious Daylina Miller, a major figure in the Tampa steampunk scene, who I met through Frank Frey. We had a great talk about zombies, of all things. She had some nice things to say about the game on her Tampasteampunk blog. Check it out here.

A French automitrailleus prepares to move down the road and flush out the enemies of the Commune.

I'll have some more pictures from the game tomorrow, the next batch from Phil Tortorici.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Upcoming Conventions of Note

Here are some upcoming conventions which may be of interest to Space: 1889ers.

I'm flying down to Orlando this weekend and will be guest of honor at Hurricon. The show runs from September 22nd through the 25th, and I'll be running a number of games of Mars Needs Steam using Frank Frey's collection of miniatures. Frank's been a Space: 1889 buff since the first edition came out way back when. I'm sure I'll end up giving one or more informal talks as well. Here's the convention website link.

In October I'll be heading out east to the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society's Fall In convention, October 28-30, Halloween weekend. (BOO!) I won't be running Mars Needs Steam that trip as we'll be previewing our new historical miniatures rules Men Under Fire. That's a close cousin to Mars Needs Steam, since they use the same basic combat system. Here's the link for Fall In.

I'll probably take November off, but if you're in the mid-west, consider the Kansas City Game Fair, November 10-13. There will be a number of Space: 1889 role-playing and miniatures games running there and the convention guest of honor will be Bill Reger, author of Pinnacle Productions' Red Sands, the Space: 1889 sourcebook for the Savage Worlds role-playing game. By the way, I didn't mention it earlier, but Bill's Space: 1889 book won the Gen Con EN World (ENnie) Best Role-Playing Supplement Silver Medal this summer. Congratulations Bill and everyone at Pinnacle who made that such a great product. Here's the link for the Kansas City Game Fair.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mars Needs Steam Update

Moving into my new place has messed up my schedule, so I'm way past due for the promised update on Mars Needs Steam. Ah well, better late than never, etc. The picture is not the Mars Needs Steam cover, but is by Talon Dunning who is the artists doing the actual cover art for the game, so it will give you a nice idea of the general feel.

I ran Mars Needs Steam at CelestiCon in San Francisco and it was a big hit -- a little to my surprise, as we had to improvise terrain and troops pretty much at the last minute, and had very minimalist forces for each side. That we were able to do so was due to the generosity for a number of players and game masters in the area. More importantly, it provided a nice test of just the core game system itself, and that's what the players responded so enthusiastically to.

What I set out to do was have an adventure game on the table. "Adventure game" has broad as well as narrow meanings, so to be clear I wanted a miniatures game with strong role-playing elements and an element of surprise and discovery which went beyond a standard war game. That said, I also wanted its structure to be familiar as a wargame and playable as such and, most importantly, I wanted it playable without a referee, In other words, the game should not require a referee to invent an elaborate scenario with a lot of referee-generated surprises. Ideally, two players should be able to sit down, set up a gaming table, put their troops on it, and play -- say in a game store or in one of their gaming rooms -- on short notice and with a minimum of preparation.

The core "adventure" mechanism I used was borrowed from my pals Glenn Kidd and Frank "Don Franko" Sciuli; they developed it for use in their pulp game White Pearl, Black Heart, which they have been running for over a year at the Historical Miniature Gaming Society conventions on the US east coast. It involves a deck of event (I call them Wonder Cards) cards and pre-located event locations. As part of setting up the game, players take turns putting down event locations, marked with an exotic plant, small pice of ruined monument, pile of shining crystals -- whatever handy but interesting-looking marker the players have. During the game, each time a player's figure reached one of these event locations, they turn an event card and it takes effect immediately.

The wonder cards include attacks by wild animals (one of the reasons I'm glad Highlander Studios is doing animals), encounters with local Martians, exotic plants (which may p[rove dangerous as well), artifacts of the vanished Martian civilization, genuine treasure, a lost explorer or Martian princess, etc. All of them have a point value. In addition, the dangerous ones will attack and players have to overcome them to gain the points.

Where the role-playing bit comes in is with the characters available to a player/party. Usually a group will have two or three special characters which affect the types of military units the party can have, but they also may have skills useful in dealing with wonders/encounters. Characters with Animal Lore have a better chance of surprising wild animals, as opposed to the wild animals attacking the party first from ambush. Characters with Botany skill have better luck with exotic plants, and they also receive more victory points for finding those sorts of cards. Archaeologists receive more points for artifacts, a native guide can turn a hostile Martian native encounter into a potential additional friendly unit, etc.

Of course, it is also a competitive war game, so in addition to the encounters, players have to deal with their opponents, and you gain points for beating enemy units as well.

The scenario I ran had a party of British against a party of Italians (the Victorian era troops available were twenty Indian Army infantry and about twenty-five Italian Bersaglieri). The Italians had two army officers, a naturalist, and an archaeologist. The British had an army officer, a hunter, a spy, and a naturalist (as I recall). The spy is an interesting character. At on point during the game one soldier (not a character) of the enemy changes sides, usually with exciting effect.

That was about all there was to the game I ran, and everyone had a great time -- the cries of anguish and hoots of excitement drew a small crowd of onlookers as well. What that game did not have, which the game itself will, was exotic Steampunk vehicles and weapons. That's coming next.

The game uses point-based military units, so both armies are balanced on points. The characters chosen allow you access to different types of units, but no more points, so you still have tp pick and choose. A Mechanic gets access to ground vehicles, an Aerial Mechanic to flyers, and an inventor lets you design your own exotic vehicle or weapon. The vehicle and weapon design rules are simple and provide the game point costs of the various characteristics of vehicles and weapons -- sort of like a shopping lost with prices attached. It's a little more involved than that, but not much.

The game is obviously set in the Space: 1889 universe, but there is no reason you cannot expand it beyond that. The vehicle and weapon design systems are open-ended, and if you can describe the game effects of a weapon, you can determine its point value. By the same token, the game's Wonder Cards are created with a Martian background, but I'm sure I'll be doing expansions (cards and army lists) for Venus, Luna, and Earth -- different parts of Earth probably.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Space 1889 and Beyond is Live!

It's official. As of 1830 Zulu (Greenwich Mean Time) Journey to the Heart of Luna was on the Untread Reads site. Here is the official word from Jay Hartman, senior editor at Untreed Reads;

"I'm pleased to tell you that Journey to the Heart of Luna is now live and available for immediate purchase and download from:
"The Untreed Reads Store (
Apple iBookstore US
Apple iBookstore Canada
Apple iBookstore Australia
Apple iBookstore UK
Apple iBookstore Germany
"Within approximately 24-48 hours, it should be available at:
Amazon UK
Amazon Germany
"All other retailers and distributors will roll the title out in the days and weeks to come. As always, we appreciate you sending traffic through The Untreed Reads Store or Apple's iBookstore whenever possible. This ensures the best royalty for everyone involved. . . . We do offer MOBI (Kindle) format at The Untreed Reads Store, which can then either be emailed to someone's Kindle account or transferred directly to a Kindle device via USB. However, this MOBI version cannot be installed in the Kindle app."

Here is a link to Andy Frankham-Allen's blog with his own announcement and another exerpt from the first book.

We've been waiting for this for some time, and it is only the start of a very exciting time for Space: 1889.

Right now I'm recovering from a cold picked up out at CelestiCon in San Francisco, but aside from that it was a very good show. I ran an enthusiastically-received game of Mars Needs Steam, which I will tell you all about tomorrow or the next day. in the mean time, consider doing some reading. :^)