On Venus the imperial powers have begun using dirigibles, and colonial ambitions inevitably create conflict. Dirigible battles can be fought using Sky Galleons of Mars, with a few minor changes.
The rules for hydrogen dirigible design given in Ironclads and Ether Flyers are somewhat unrealistic, as the airships created are all vastly bigger than anything Victorian technology could produce. A 200-ton airship of Hull Size 2 would be the size of the giant dirigibles of the 1930s, and a 1000-ton Zeppelin would be three times the size of the Hindenburg! The following rules allow the creation of more realistic airships.
|Italian dirigible RA Umberto displaying its distinct "kite" tail.|
Engines: Propulsion follows the Sky Galleons rules, but petrol-burning forced-draught boilers or turbine engines are favored.In determining engine size it is useful to employ fractional hull sizes. A 15-ton dirigible would count as hull size 1 1/2, and consequently would need an engine of size 1 1/2 to drive it at speed 6. Fuel consumption should also be worked out to fractional values. Airships often have much smaller cruising ranges than liftwood vessels, with only a few days' fuel on board.
Weapons: Armament follows the standard rules, but use only half the listed weight for all gun mounts (dirigibles don't have large magazines, and everything on board is specially modified for lightness). Liftwood devices such as Tether Mines or Smutts Torpedoes are not available on Venus, but can be mounted on airships in use on Earth or Mars. Drogue Torpedoes and Spike Droppers may be used normally. Incendiary devices are out of the question.
Other Features: Additional crew or passengers require 1 ton each. Since airships tend to have cramped accommodations, the designer must add features like a galley, promenade or lounge (1 ton each).
There are few differences between airship combat and the Sky Galleons rules. Because a gas bag is so easily punctured, all shells pass through the envelope without detonating, so all Hull hits inflict only 1 point of damage. Fires automatically destroy hydrogen airships. If one catches at Low or Very Low altitude, the crew may try to ride the flaming wreckage to a safe landing. Each crewman who rolls a 6 on one die survives; the remainder perish.
The damage rules for targets at different altitudes are reversed for airships, since the bulk of the hull is above the crew compartment - the reverse of the usual arrangement for liftwood flyers. If one fires at a dirigible at a lower altitude, then all Crew hits count as Hull hits. If one fires at a target which is at a higher altitude, then all hits are resolved normally on the damage table.
AIRSHIPS IN USE ON VENUS
German Zeppelin Gunboat: Though flimsy compared with gunboats on Mars and Earth, the Zeppelin is a veritable battleship on Venus. The armament is chiefly for use against dinosaurs and Lizard-men. The German air fleet on Venus includes four such vessels, the L ("Luftschiff")-16, L-19, L-20, and L-24.
The gunboat is a hydrogen-filled rigid Zeppelin of Hull Size 4, with an oil-fired forced-draught engine of size 2.7 and a 4-day petrol supply. The ship is armed with a 3-pounder Hotchkiss forward, a pair of 5-barrel Nordenfelts in wing mounts, and a Maxim gun astern. It has space for 3 passengers and carries a ton of cargo. The Zeppelin costs £26,570. It has a speed of 4, and can reach Very High altitude. If the ship carries fuel for an additional 5 days of flight (or 7 tons of cargo), its maximum altitude is High. At medium altitude it can haul another weeks worth of fuel or 11 more tons of cargo.
Italian Dirigible: The Italians have pioneered the semi-rigid dirigible, of which this is a good example. It has a rigid keel along the base of the gasbag, to which the engines and gondola are attached. It is a multipurpose patrol craft, not a warship. There is currently one such ship on Venus, the RA ("Regia Aeronave") Umberto.
The RA Umberto is a hydrogen-lift airship with a Hull Size of 2. It has an oil-fired forced-draught engine (ES=1) and 3.5 tons of fuel (enough for 7 days). It is armed with two wing-mount 50-caliber Gatlings and a Gardner gun forward. It has space for 5 passengers. The ship can reach Very High altitude, has a Speed of 3, and costs £19,330. With an additional 3.5 tons of cargo or week's fuel it is limited to High altitude, and carrying 5 tons more of cargo or petrol it can reach Medium.
|An Italian patrol blimp over Venus.|
Italian Patrol Blimp: This smaller craft is a non-rigid blimp; it is cheap and fast. The Italians presently operate two blimps, the RA Roma and the RA Venezia.
The blimp is Hull Size 1, with a total weight of 8 tons.It has an oil-fired turbine engine and carries 2 tons of oil (burning1/2 ton per day). The blimp mounts a pair of Gardner guns. It can carry 3 passengers at Very High altitude, adding 2 tons of cargo or fuel at High, and another 2.5 tons of payload at Medium. The patrol blimp has a Speed of 6, and costs £9,160.
British Royal Navy Airship: The British have had difficulty translating their expertise in liftwood flyer design to dirigibles. This blimp is essentially a copy of an Italian design, but with heavier armament. The British have three blimps in their colony, the NA.3 ("Naval Airship"), NA.5, and NA.6.
The blimp is Hull Size 1, weighing 8 tons. It has an oil-fired steam turbine engine with 2 tons of fuel, giving it a 4-day endurance. Armament consists of a single 1-inch Gatling gun forward, and three Maxim guns in wing and stern mounts. Maximum altitude is Very High, but the blimp can carry no cargo at that height. Speed is 6; cost is £9,520.
|Russian Post Stamp depicting an Army Blimp.|
Russian Army Blimp: The Russian blimp sacrifices speed and altitude for armament and carrying capacity. It can transport a squad of soldiers to a trouble spot and provide fire support, or carry vital cargo. The Russians currently have two blimps, the Alexander and the St. Petersburg.The Russian blimp is of Hull Size 2. It has an oil-fired forced-draught engine of size 1, and 4.5 tons of fuel (enough for 9 days' cruising). The armament consists of a single Mitrailleuse mounted forward. The blimp has space for 8 passengers, and at Medium altitude can carry 5 tons of cargo. It can reach High altitude, and has a top speed of 3. Cost: £12,220.
SCENARIO 1: LINES ON A MAP
In the spring of 1888, the Zeppelin L-19 was sent to survey the Venusian Alps northwest of the Italian colony. The Italian governor got word of the mission, and feared that the Germans were trying to secure a colonial claim in Italian territory. The newly-completed Umberto and a patrol blimp were sent to chase away the L-19 and protect Italy's rights to the area.
Rules: Use the mountain map from Sky Galleons of Mars. The contour lines mark the different altitude levels. The Germans start at any height in the center of the map; and the Italians enter from one side at any altitude.
Victory: The Italians win if the German ship is destroyed or forced to leave the map. The Germans win if they withstand the Italian attack.
SCENARIO 2: HEARTS AND MINDS
In August 1889, Russian and Italian blimps were sent to establish relations with the coastal tribes north of the Hestia Highlands. Both states hoped to overawe the natives with their flying ships. The two blimps arrived with in a week of each other, and the captains began shooting at one another shortly there after.
Rules: Each side gets one blimp. The desert map is used, ignoring surface features. The two ships enter from opposite sides of the map at any altitude.
Victory: The victor must destroy his enemy and still be able to return home. To return home, an airship must have a working screw and rudder, and must be able to reach low altitude.
William Sigerson, a British spy in the Italian colony, was discovered and had to flee. With the help of sympathetic Lizard-men, he reached the coast and sailed toward British territory. Sigerson was pursued by the Umberto. In mid-ocean however, a British blimp arrived just as the Italians began to attack the raft.
Rules: The British get a blimp, the Italians get the Umberto. Either map is used, ignoring surface features. A marker in the center of the map represents the raft which moves one hex toward the right hand edge each turn. The Italians start within 4 hexes of the raft at Medium or higher altitude; the British enter one side of the map at any altitude.
Victory: The British win if they can finish one turn at ground altitude on the raft (and pick up Sigerson) and leave the map, or else destroy the Umberto. The Italians win if they sink the raft before Sigerson is rescued, or destroy the blimp. To sink the raft, the Italians must score a total of 30 hits on it.
SCENARIO 4: A SCIENTIFIC DEBATE
The feud between Kaptanleutnant Freitag of the L-19 and Lieutenant MacRoss of the NA.5 began because both were amateur naturalists. MacRoss repeatedly beat Freitag into publication with descriptions of Venusian flora and fauna. Freitag claimed plagiarism. When the L-19 encountered the NA.5 over German territory, Freitag decided to end the feud once and for all.
Rules: Use the desert map. The contour lines mark different altitude levels. The British get a blimp; the Germans get a Zeppelin. The NA.5 begins at any altitude in the center of the map; the L-19 enters at Very High from the right hand edge. The German player automatically gets the initiative on the first turn.
Victory: The British player must escape off the left-hand edge of the map, or destroy the L-19. The German player wins if the captain of the NA.5 is killed.
James L. Cambias is Chief Game Architect at Zygote Games. Jim began writing games in 1990, and worked for Game Designers' Workshop, Steve Jackson Games, HERO Games, and Iron Crown Enterprises before joining Zygote. He is also the author of the SF novel A Darkling Sea, and the forthcoming Corsair (Tor Books, Spring 2015)
by James Cambias, ©1993; the article appeared in Transactions of the Royal Martian Geographical Society, Vol. 1, No. 6. It has been updated, and is used here with the author's permission.