|Publishers||Game Designers' Workshop, Heliograph, Inc., Untreed Reads Publishing LLC. Clockwork Publishing, [[Ulisses North America]]|
|Publication||1988, 2001, 2014|
|Genres||Steampunk, Victorian era science fantasy|
Space: 1889 is a tabletop role-playing game of Victorian-era space-faring, created by Frank Chadwick and originally published by Game Designers' Workshop from 1988 to 1991 and later reprinted by Heliograph, Inc. in 2000 and 2001. In February 2013 Chronicle City announced that they were working with the German publisher Uhrwerk Verlag/Clockwork Publishing on a new English edition of Space: 1889, which is based on the German edition from 2011 which uses the Ubiquity ruleset. In December 2014 Uhrwerk Verlag separated their ties with Chronicle City and continued the translation of the new English version on their own. The PDF of the English Ubiquity core rulebook was released in October 2014, the print version in November 2015. In September 2019 and following the announcement of bankruptcy by Clockwork Publishing earlier that year, Ulisses North America announced they had acquired the rights to Space: 1889.
The first published description of Space: 1889 was in the "Feedback" column in the TSR/SPI publication Ares Magazine in 1983, as a proposal for a board wargame. The title is both a pun on the name of the television show Space: 1999 and a continuation of the GDW naming convention applied to two of its previous role-playing games, Twilight: 2000 and Traveller: 2300 (the latter of which was later renamed 2300 AD in order to prevent confusion with Traveller), though neither previous game had any connection to the Space: 1889 universe. The name Space: 1889 is a registered trademark belonging to Chadwick.
The game presented an alternate history in which certain discredited Victorian scientific theories were instead found to be true and have led to the existence of new technologies. In the setting, Thomas Edison invented an "ether propeller" which could propel ships through the "luminiferous aether" (the universal medium that permeates space, based on a now outdated scientific theory), and traveled to Mars in 1870 accompanied by Scottish soldier of fortune Jack Armstrong, where they discovered that the planet was inhabited. By the time of the game's setting in 1889, the great powers have used Edison's invention to extend their colonies and interests to the inner planets of the solar system. Venus and Mars have been colonized by the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Russia. Belgium has only colonized Mars and Italy has only colonized Venus whilst Japan and the United States maintain economic and scientific enclaves on Mars. There are no colonies or bases on the Moon. Only the United Kingdom maintains a (scientific) base on Mercury.
The inner planets reflect an evolutionary progression, the planets nearest to the sun being younger than those farther out. All planets have Extraterrestrial life, and most bear native sentient species. Mercury is primeval and tide locked, and possesses only rudimentary lifeforms. Venus is a vast swamp world dominated by hulking reptiles and lizard men. The Moon is an airless dead world, but with mysteries hidden deep beneath the surface. Mars is an ancient desert planet in decline, divided into warring decadent city-states clinging to a failing system of canals. Vulcan has died and become the asteroid belt. Due to limitations in technology the outer worlds remain unreachable and unexplored. There are also hints that some worlds may have terrain hidden beneath their surface.
One of the treasures that spurred the Europeans to Mars was "liftwood": a rare cultivated plant with anti-gravity properties that allowed for the construction of giant floating ships. While the Earthers used Martian sky galleons at first, they later constructed their own armored, steam powered flyers.
Since wireless was not invented yet in 1889, communication between Earth and Mars is handled by orbital heliograph stations. The game contains much more detail on the flora, fauna, and peoples of the planets. The majority of the published material is centered on Mars.
Practical aether travel as we know it today all began with Professor Etienne Moreau, who in 1860 hypothesised that the aether, like the matter and energy throughout the universe, was not evenly distributed. If it was instead affected by its interaction with matter, it might be distributed in vortices, thin patches, and even compacted clumps. He also theorised that interaction of matter, energy and aether indicated that it was possible for each to be used to manipulate the other. Just as matter could be burned to release energy, and energy expended to move matter, so could matter be used to grip or grasp the aether, and energy used to manipulate it. Thomas Edison, an American inventor, fell into discussions with Moreau about his theories, and through these discussions it was Edison who devised a practical use for the luminiferous aether. Its nature suggested to Edison a device which could sail at speeds heretofore undreamed of. But this prototype hit a problem; it could not overcome the atmosphere. Edison communicated this problem to Moreau, and further tests with small models showed that the device would only operate properly at an altitude of 24,000 feet or higher. In 1868 Edison perfected his prototype and called it an aether propeller, a device that manipulated the aether by generating an electromagnetic field. He manned the first voyage himself, accompanied by the soldier of fortune, Jack Armstrong. Together they piloted their craft via hydrogen balloon high enough to enable the propeller to work, and from there they sailed the aether all the way to Mars. Unfortunately their landing on Mars was not smooth and their flyer was damaged, but fortunately the planet was inhabited. The two men spent over a year on Mars, learning the language of the natives, and were eventually provided with material to repair the flyer. They returned to Earth on August 7, 1870. Edison and Armstrong received fame and fortune, and within a year there was several dozen companies manufacturing Edison flyers, and flyers of several other nationalities were soon making frequent trips to Mars.
These are the facts, how the aether age came upon us. Since then mankind has spread out among the inner planets, but due to the mechanics of aether travel they have not been able to find a way to travel beyond the asteroid belt and thus explore the outer planets. After all, it is by garnering the heat of the sun that enables the water to boil and thus produce the steam that powers the aether propeller.
Extract from Journey to the Heart of Luna[permanent dead link] by Andy Frankham-Allen
The innermost planet, Mercury, is a tidally locked world, with one side always facing the Sun, the other the void of outer space. Between the cold of the dark side and the heat of the light side, there is a narrow 100-mile wide temperate zone that circles the globe. All around the zone runs the World River, linking the various lakes and small seas, its flow driven by Coriolus effects. Along the river, exotic plant life and primitive shelled creatures (similar to those common on Earth during the Paleozoic Age) make their home.
Largely unexplored, there is only one permanent human settlement, a British scientific outpost named Princess Christiana Station, with less than a hundred residents. While molten tin and lead on the hot side of the planet and frozen fields of ammonia and carbon dioxide on the cold side are potential commercial products, the extremes of heat and cold have made exploitation impractical to date.
A recent scientific expedition to the dark side of Mercury has reported exotic life forms living in the extreme cold. Their body chemistry is based on ammonia, and the creatures catalogued included a primitive race vaguely resembling spiders or crabs. The expedition managed to establish communication with them, and they proved helpful in exploration of the area. It is also on Mercury that gravitar was discovered by Austrian geologists.
Beneath a constant shroud of clouds, Venus is a swamp world drenched by nearly continuous rainfall. Much of the surface is covered by a shallow ocean that averages less than ten feet deep. The plants are similar to those of the Mesozoic age of Earth, and dinosaurs roam the jungles.
Venus is home to the Lizardmen (Skreelan, in their native tongue), a race of intelligent humanoids. Most of them roam the jungles in small bands, though some of the more advanced tribes had developed agriculture before the arrival of Europeans. Recently, several countries have set up trading stations, where merchants exchange tools and rubber items for the exotic plants harvested by the Lizardmen. Venusian plants are much in demand on Earth as ingredients in drugs and dyes, and collectors of fine flowers find Venusian blooms to be of great beauty.
The exploration of Venus has been hampered by the constant storms and rain, which make aerial scouting dangerous. A more significant complication, however, is the effect that the Venusian magnetic field has on liftwood. It causes the wood to rapidly lose its anti-gravity properties. In fact, the first three British expeditions to the planet failed to return when their flyers were unable to reach flight altitude. It was not until the German expedition of 1879–80, which used hydrogen gas for lift, that the truth was learned from the few survivors of the earlier expeditions. Venus is hot and damp – the few human settlers make their homes in the highlands which are cooler and lack swamps. The British, Russians, Germans, and Italians have all set up colonies.
Mostly, as mankind spread out among the other planets, Luna remained of interest to only a few space mariners, and crazed Russian scientist, Vladimir Tereshkov, and rival American scientist Doctor Cyrus Grant. For a short time, the Russians maintained a secret mining settlement, enslaving the indigenous population, the Selenites, but were overthrown by the crew of HMAS Sovereign, with the help of Professor Nathanial Stone. At present the UK maintains an illegal research base on Luna, contravening the Agreement Governing State Activities on Luna, which prevents any one nation setting up a presence on the moon. As a result, there is much interest in Luna from the other major powers, but still the British Empire maintain control over the moon; a position precarious at best.
Mars is the first planet explored by humans, and in 1889 is being colonised and subjugated by the European powers. The English, French, Germans, Russians, Belgians, and Japanese all have established colonies there, and American traders are everywhere in evidence. The reasons are plain – lift-wood is a valuable commodity, and the growing importance of aerial navies has made many countries desirous of establishing their influence on Mars. Moreover, in addition to lift-wood there are other Martian products that bring a good price on Earth, and the huge Martian population is a ready market for European manufactured goods.
Mars is much older than Earth, and over time has gradually lost its water and has become hot and dry. The only thing that makes life possible over much of the planet is the enormous canal system. Built long ago before Martians became decadent and weak, the canal system is an amazing feat of engineering. Criss-crossing the globe, the canals bring water from the annual melting of the polar icecaps. Powerful pumps lift water over mountains, huge bridges span valleys, and other devices link the canals to make them avenues of commerce, all powered by mysterious sources of energy beyond current human understanding.
Martian cities are at the intersections of canals, where they serve as centres for trade. The canals are not entirely watertight – the small leaks create aquifers along the banks that support crops and small villages. The canal system is old, however, and not all of the ancient pumps still work or ancient bridges stand. As a result, many of the canals no longer have running water, and serve only as caravan routes across the harsh deserts.
There are three distinct Martian cultures. The most advanced is made up of the Canal Martians. They live along the canals and in the Martian cities. Tall (well over six feet), with pointed ears and pale ocher skin, they vaguely resemble the elves of human myth. Their hands, like other Martians, have only three fingers along with a thumb. Canal Martian food is much like human food, though more spicy.
Their level of social and technological development is roughly that of Europe in the Renaissance. Each city is ruled by a royal family, their armies use black powder muzzleloaders, and horse-like Gashants are the main means of ground transportation. Although civilized, they are clearly a culture in decline, with baroque and incomprehensible art and science that lacks the innovative spark. Nowhere is this decline clearer than in the arena of government, which in Martian cities is almost incomprehensibly bureaucratic and extraordinarily corrupt.
The second Martian culture is that of the Hill Martians. They are slightly shorter and stockier than Canal Martians (but still average slightly over six feet in height), and their skin color tends toward a golden brown with brown or red hair.
They are frontiersmen of Martian society, living beyond the power of the Canal Martian governments. They have a variety of cultures, but their social structures most closely resemble those of human nomads like the Sioux of North America or the Tartars of Asia. Their government is tribal, usually based on clans. Many Hill Martians have never encountered humans – since they respect courage, determination, and skill with weapons, humans who demonstrate those traits are the most likely to be well received.
Finally, we come to the savage High Martians. In physical appearance they resemble the other Martian races, but are much shorter and walk with a stooped, apelike posture. Their skin is dark, their hair is black, and they have wing membranes under their arms. These wings aid them in flight – High Martians have a lifting gland that cancels gravity in much the same was as liftwood does.
High Martians live far from civilization in hill fortresses called Kraags. Ruled by kings, high Martians steal from more civilized peoples and enslave captives. All work in High Martian communities is done by slaves, who are unable to escape since they cannot fly down from the Kraags as the High Martians do. Many High Martian kings are wealthy, since liftwood only grows in the mountains, and High Martian tribes usually control the groves and tend them with their slaves.
One last thing about Mars: the surface gravity is 90% of that of Earth, when orbital calculations indicate that it should be less than half. Published Space: 1889 material never explains the discrepancy.
By Pinnacle Entertainment Group
By Uhrwerk Verlag/Clockwork Publishing
By Test of Battle Games
Heliograph reprinted the rules portions of Sky Galleons of Mars and Cloudships & Gunboats, but did not reprint the boxed games themselves.
GDW released a range of 25mm miniatures sculpted by Bob Murch of RAFM. These sets were collectively called Adversaries, and included Soldiers of the Queen (a "company" of 20 British infantry), Legions of Mars (a warband of 20 Martians), Kraag Warriors (20 High Martians, 10 each flying and walking), and Victorian Adventurers (10 diverse personalities, as seen in Temple of the Beastmen).
All of these miniatures are currently available directly from RAFM, although the composition of the Victorian Adventurers set has changed. In 2002, RAFM released Martian colonial infantry, cavalry & artillery crew, as well as new gashants (a Martian cavalry mount), Hill Martians and Canal Martians.
On 1/25/08 RAFM opened a forum to discuss expanding their 1889 line of miniatures. You can view the forum here: http://www.rafm.com/cgi-bin/Ultimate.cgi?action=intro[permanent dead link]
Highlander studios has begun a line of 15mm miniatures.
A computer game adaptation by the same name was also released in 1990 at the height of the game's popularity. It was developed by frequent GDW licensee Paragon for the Amiga, Atari ST and PC platforms.
In 2005/06, Noise Monster Productions, run by Big Finish stalwart John Ainsworth, released four full-cast audio adventures on CD. These were produced under exclusive license from Frank Chadwick. The first three released stories are now commonly referred to as The Mars Trilogy, and the fourth release The Lunar Inheritance is a stand-alone tale. Each was released on a single CD with a running time of approximately 70 minutes.
As of 2006 the stories released have been:
In September 2011, Untreed Reads Publishing launched a new series of eBooks called "Space: 1889 & Beyond", edited by Andy Frankham-Allen, who wrote for the short lived audio drama series produced by Noise Monster Productions in 2005 and 2006. The first series was based, loosely, on the gaming book Tales from the Ether and introduced the key concepts of the series; the characters, the setting, the aether, the planets, and the politics. The first series ran until February 2012. The second series of six books began in August 2012, for the first time advancing the setting beyond the year 1889, and pushing the narrative forward to previously unexplored areas of the property. The opening book of series two, Conspiracy of Silence, was the first time any Space: 1889 product has been set entirely on Earth (featuring characters from Frank Chadwick's forthcoming prequel novel The Forever Engine), with the series two finale, Horizons of Deceit Book I, being the second - serving as the opposite bookend of the season following the political manoeuvring seen in the previous novel. A third series of novels launched in July 2014, a further set of six books featuring authors who have all previously written for the series. This third series is a 'ground breaking' series, taking the property to the worlds beyond the asteroid belt for the first time in the Space: 1889 franchise. However, to date, only the first two books in the series have been published, and Untreed Reads is no longer publishing the series. It's not clear when or if the remainder of the third series will be printed.
Continuity: Journey to the Heart of Luna alludes to the appointment of the new governor of the British colony of Syrtis Major on Mars. This is a reference to Sir Henry Routledge, who was seen en route to his new position in the audio play Red Devils. The character is set to appear in A Fistful of Dust, confirming that The Mars Trilogy audio releases are part of the "Space: 1889 & Beyond" narrative. The Lunar Inheritance, however, is overwritten by Journey to the Heart of Luna and subsequent tales surrounding Luna and the inhabitants of that world. Characters seen in The Forever Engine appear in Conspiracy of Silence and subsequent stories. Elements from Red Sands are referenced in The Draco Eye and the third series of stories.
Setting: Series one runs from April to December 1889. Series two runs from December 1889 to October 1890. Series three runs from October 1890 to late 1891. Series one visits Earth, Luna, Venus, Mercury and Mars. Series two visits Earth, Mercury, Ceres, Venus, Mars, and Phobos. Series three visits Earth, Luna, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Charon and Planet X.
Characters: The series forms an ongoing narrative focussing on a set of regular and semi-regular characters. The following information is taken from the 'season two guidelines'...
Recurring characters include;
The stories of series one are:
The stories of series two are:
The published stories of series three are:
The unpublished (and possibly unwritten) stories of series three are:
G. E. Smith reviewed Space: 1889 in Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer No. 85. Smith commented that "the Space: 1889 system encompasses a serious game, produced by serious game designers who have their tongues lovingly but firmly in their cheeks, at least in the technology areas. But it all seems to work wonderfully well and is a delight to read and work with, as well as play."
Paul Mason reviewed Space: 1889 for Games International magazine, and gave it 3 stars out of 5, and stated that "All in all, a good game. Not a great game, but certainly worth a try if you like the idea of the background."
Space 1889 was ranked 20th in the 1996 reader poll of Arcane magazine to determine the 50 most popular roleplaying games of all time. The UK magazine's editor Paul Pettengale commented: "Although the character generation is a delight - the stats include Social Standing - the system itself combines simplicity with incomprehensibility. You have to be prepared for lots of house rulings and on-the-spot improvising, or take an easier route and convert to another system. Comparisons with the later Falkenstein are inevitable and not necessarily to Falkenstein's credit. Space 1889 avoids fantasy hangovers, or the pretence that the setting is a utopia. Imperialism exists, and its complexities and gradiations are not glossed over. The game leaves it up to the players (and ref) to decide wehether they become bold imperialists or bold freedom fighters for the Martians. You bring your own biases to Space 1889, rather than being forced to accept the predigested ideas of its authors."