Friday, October 31, 2014

A View from the Bridge

Another month has cruised by and it is Halloween, where does the time go? At any rate, for this All Hallow's Eve edition of Paleotechnic Press' editorial page, I thought I would post short reviews of two, "new to me," RPG source books that I have recently acquired. But first, in "breaking news…" yesterday Chronicle City announced that their Space: 1889 reboot is now available as a download from DriveThruRPG (for those of you who missed the Kickstarter). The PDF looks very nice, but I prefer printed material (I know, I am so nineteenth century) so I will save my review until I get the physical book.
In the meantime, this past month I did receive a copy of Flying Machines of the Worlds 1902: Aerial Vessels for the Hive, Queen and Country Universe (©2012, Aerolyth Enterprises) from one of its authors, Terry Sofian. Flying Machines is a supplement to the Stars of Empire RPG. SoE postulates a Victorian world of 1894 where the colonial powers vie for control of the planets beyond the earth. If this sounds a bit familiar, that is because Sofian is also a fan of Space: 1889. Despite the high level similarity, there are several significant differences between SoE and Space: 1889. First, and foremost, is the existence of "The Hive." In SoE, the Hive is an extra-planetary organism threatening humanity's existence, and it serves as both a peril and a back-plot for the story arc of the entire game. The second big difference is that in the Hive, Queen, and Country universe (HQC) the timeline begins to diverge in the 1700s and Terry has spent a great deal of time postulating the effects of those changes over the course of the game's 150 years of "past future".
Flying Machines of the Worlds is one of several supplements to the basic SoE game. This particular supplement is truly a tome, weighing in at 256 pages! Written by Arun Rodrigues and Sofian, Flying Machines advances the Hive, Queen and Country timeline to 1902 when the state of aerospace technology has progressed significantly beyond what we traditionally see in the 1889 world. From the book's introduction:
The people of Hive, Queen, and Country have been flying since the 1860s, and had mechanical computers since the 1830s. By the 1900s aircraft have been designed for 40 years, and computation has advanced the state of the art by another 5-10 years. Thus, the ships of the 1900s are in many ways more advanced than the aircraft of the late 1930s...
The Flying Machines book is divided into 3 main sections. The first several chapters of the book provide background on the HQC world, but the bulk of the book is taken up by the ship designs and illustrations in the second section. The authors have detailed each ship in much the same way that Fred T. Jane detailed naval vessels in his series of "real world" books. Flying Machines is profusely illustrated, every ship class is represented by a number of different isometric views; perfect for modeling. The designs fully occupy 180 pages and there are ships of every size and type.  The types are broadly broken down into aerolyth (a elemental, anti-gravity, discovery), Fredrickshaven (lighter than air), and Cayley (dynamic lift aircraft) flyers. The book's last section includes the referee's "eyes only" information and a chapter on modeling an aerolyth flyer. The authors' attention to detail is commendable and the book is chock full of information. The ship designs are plentiful and many can be used with with Space: 1889 and/or Aeronef with little, or no, modification. Because of the later time frame postulated in Flying Machines (and the advance of technology) the ships would certainly be useful in any dieselpunk, or even pulp era, game settings as well. In fact, anyone interested in turn of the century aeonaval/SciFi, warfare will find Flying Machines a treasure trove of ideas.
The second supplement I picked up this month is Miskatonic University Library Association's Secrets of the Congo (©2009, Chaosium, Inc.). The book is a perfect bound, glossy-covered, book. The text of the supplement is a setting for classic 1920s Call of Cthulhu, although as the author suggests it may played in a Pulp or Gaslight Cthulhu style (ie with more heroic characters and improbable escapes). This volume is 134 pages with maps, handouts and photographs, in addition to the text. The book is well laid-out with clear text and quality illustrations.
This monograph is, first and foremost, a scenario campaign set in the Congo with additional information, rather than a sourcebook with adventures attached. The main scenario hook is that one character's uncle has gone missing in the Congo. He may have found something wonderful, or perhaps not, but if the uncle can be proven dead, a large inheritance will pass to the character. The first section of the monograph details the geography, biology and anthropology of the Congo, as well as the state of the country where the investigators find themselves. Notably, the text is sprinkled with quotes from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The quotes help to reinforce the backdrop of the Belgians colonial control of the area, but also the decrepit state of the colony. The text also provides some optional rules that will allow Keepers to resolve large scale battles (mass combat).
In addition to the primary scenario, seven Congo adventure seeds, two pages of useful notes for running the adventure, seven sample characters, and ten pages of handouts are also presented in the monograph. The final three pages of information in the book detail commercial flying operations in the 1920s, including factual information on flying boat use throughout the world.
Secrets of the Congo is equal parts Joseph Conrad, Indiana Jones, Stanley and Livingstone, with some Lemuel Gulliver thrown into the mix. It is a useful reference for any gamemaster, but I believe the background information will be particularly useful for an Earth-based Space: 1889 campaign. Production and content-wise Congo is a solid monograph, and despite its (relatively) high price (which may possibly be explained by the quality of the publication), it is a worthwhile addition to your game library.
The reviews out of the way, what is on tap for Paleotechnic Press next month? I have several articles queued up for publication. In no particular order, an interesting historical article on "future" naval warfare, another NPC, as well as several more old Space: 1889 articles, that I hope you will enjoy…meanwhile, as always, happy gaming!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Look up in the Sky!

Players of GDW's Sky Galleons of Mars aerial combat game who feel they have mastered the game might want to consider using the following supplemental rules to cover situations not anticipated by the original game.
HMS Aphid vs. Hullcutter, by James Colton McGonigle, ©1988 
These rules are intended to add some uncertainty to the tactics of the game, and thereby simulate the often unpredictable nature of high-altitude battles.
Screw Galley Sprints: A player commanding a Martian Screw Galley may elect to have his ship's turncranks do a "sprint" during one movement phase. To perform a sprint, the player rolls a die and divides the result in half (rounding all fractions down). The resulting number is the additional number of movement points gained by the ship for this turn. The next turn, the ship may only use half its normal movement points (round down). A ship can only sprint once per scenario.
Boiler Overloads: British players can attempt a similar technique using a steam flyer's boilers. At the start of his movement, the player declares he is overloading the boiler, rolls a die and consults the following table:
Boiler Overload Table
1: Boiler Explodes (see Critical Hit table).
2: Boiler Damage; speed reduced by 1. (as with Boiler hit damage result, this speed reduction only lasts one turn)
3: No Effect.
4: Add 1 movement point.
5: Add 2 movement points.
6: Add 3 movement points.
(A player may use this option as often as he likes.)
Updrafts and Downdrafts: Winds do not only blow horizontally; there are often powerful currents of air pushing a ship up or down. This can sometimes be useful, other times devastating. At the start of each ships movement, roll a die. If the result is 6, then that ship has encountered an updraft or a downdraft. Roll again and consult the following table:
Draft Table
1: Strong downdraft. Roll a 1 or 2 to avoid losing one altitude level.
2-3: Downdraft. Roll a 1-4 to avoid losing one level.
4-5: Updraft. Roll a 1-4 to avoid climbing one level.
6: Strong updraft. Roll a 1 or 2 to avoid losing one altitude level.
When rolling to avoid changing altitude, Kites always add 1 to the die roll. A player may always elect not to roll; this means changing altitude without the expenditure of movement points. Note that each ship may also climb or descend to counter the effects of wind currents - unless the trim gear or engines are out of order.
High Martian flying parties and English marines aboard Throckmorton Conveyers will also be affected by updrafts and downdrafts. Because they are smaller, they are more vulnerable to the wind. Roll normally to see if flying parties encounter updrafts or downdrafts, but they are automatically affected if those winds exist. On a 1-3, the winds blow the fliers up one altitude level; on a 4-6, the winds blow the fliers down one level. Fliers blown into the ground roll one die for each individual in the party - on a 1 or 2 the individual survives. Any Throckmorton Conveyers blown into the ground are automatically damaged and cannot be used even if the passenger survives. No flying parties or conveyers may be lifted above Very High altitude.
Martian Pole Mines: The Pole Mine is a new device, created by Oenotrian shipbuilders desperate to overcome the superior British vessels. It is nothing more than a standard Drogue Torpedo mounted on a long pole in front of the vessel. The vessel makes its attack as if intending to ram the target vessel, but the impact triggers the pole mine before the ships collide. A Pole Mine does damage to the target like a Tether Mine or Drogue Torpedo. The attacking ship suffers no damage, but after the mine detonates, the attacker must roll normally to avoid colliding with the target ship. As with other ram attacks, the target may attempt to evade a Pole Mine.
The Pole Mine is intended to be mounted on small, fast screw galleys, analogous to the torpedo boats of Earth's oceans. Only a single Pole Mine can be mounted on a vessel, and once triggered, it is gone. Weight: 1 ton; cost £25; Crew: none.
High Martian Sabotage Parties: High Martian flying parties can perform other jobs besides simply boarding enemy ships. One flying party in a given scenario can be designated by the High Martian player as a specially-trained Sabotage Party. The Sabotage Party can attack the rigging of kites, the propellers of screw galleys and steam flyers, and the rudders of any craft.
The party must be in the same hex as the target when attacking, and and the player must state what component is being attacked. He then rolls a die. On a 6 the party does one die worth of damage to that component. If the crew quality of the High Martian is Crack, then the sabotage party does damage on a 5 or a 6.
Mutiny: High Martian screw galleys use slaves as turncranks. Under certain circumstances, these slaves may to revolt and take control of the ship. Each turn, before the Movement Phase, the High Martian player rolls a die for each screw galley under his command, and adds the following modifiers to the roll:
Mutiny Table Modifiers
+1 for each enemy boarding party aboard;
+1 for each Critical Hit the ship has suffered;
+1 if the High Martian ships are outnumbered;
-1 for each High Martian officer aboard;
-1 if the enemy is outnumbered;
-1 if the ship is on fire.
The player then consults the following table:
Mutiny Table
1-7: No effect.
8-10: Turncranks refuse to crank. The ship has no movement Points this turn. Roll again normally next turn.
11+: Turncranks rebel. They are organized into Boarding Parties of 10 men each, under the control of the enemy player.
Each group of 10 can inflict 1 die of casualties on the officers and gunners, following usual combat rules. Once all High Martian on board have been defeated, the rebel-controlled ship will attempt to leave the map. The revolt can be put down by the High Martian player if half the rebelling turncranks are killed, or if the enemy in the battle is defeated. If the rebellion has been put down on a High Martian ship, then there will be no more mutinies aboard that vessel during the battle.
Note that the High Martian player need not begin rolling until his ships have started suffering casualties. These rules could also be used to determine the behavior of captured merchant ships controlled by privateers but crewed by prisoners.
Notes: These rules can create some interesting tactical situations. For example, the Sprint rules mean that even relatively slow Martian screw galleys have a chance of closing with faster British steam ships, to board or ram. The wind rules make scenarios amid the mountains especially tricky. Pole Mines are a way for small ships to do significant damage, and are cheap enough for any ship to mount. The High Martian rules are particularly appropriate in more role-playing-oriented scenarios, such as the Great Raid, or in a Sky Galleons campaign game (inspiring the slaves on a High Martian screw galley to revolt would look marvelous in the pages of the London Times ).
About the Author
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, ©1991. This article originally appeared in issue #10 of The Game Oracle. It is used here with the permission of the author.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Heros von Borcke (1835–1895)

Heros von Borcke, in Germany after the American Civil War.
Johann August Heinrich Heros von Borcke is known as the "giant in gray." Born to an aristocratic German family, his childhood was spent in Berlin and Halle before receiving a Prussian military education. Von Borcke was commissioned an ensign in 1853 and admitted to the Cuiraisser Regiment of Guards as a cadet. He was then posted as second lieutenant to the Second Brandenburg Regiment of Dragoons, in 1860. After obtaining a leave from the Prussian Army, he embarked upon the adventure of his life; sailing for Bermuda, intent on joining the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
Speaking almost no English, von Borcke managed to secure letters of introduction to Confederate authorities, and slipped into South Carolina's Charleston Harbor via a blockade runner on May 24, 1862. He next traveled to Richmond where he met with Confederate Secretary of War George Randolph who presented him with a letter of introduction to Major General J.E.B. Stuart.
A deep friendship developed immediately between the two men and von Borcke was made a captain in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States and later promoted to the rank of major. Von Borcke could be entertaining and told wonderful stories with his thick accent. His horses were as big as his extra long sword, a beast of a blade forged in Solingen of Damascus steel. He rode with Stuart, who affectionately called him "Von," during the Northern Virginia and the Maryland campaigns, acquiring a reputation for bravery. He served with Stuart in the Battle of Middleburg on June 19, 1863, where he suffered a severe wound. The examining doctor somberly declared the wound, which pierced the lung, mortal -- but von Borcke woke up the next morning determined to live and he did. Placed on limited duty for the remainder of the year, he resumed his position on Stuart's staff in the spring of 1864. Heros was present at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, where J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded and von Borcke sat at Stuart's deathbed, holding his hand, and promised to see after Stuart's widow and children. Von Borcke was promoted to lieutenant colonel in December of 1864, was voted the official thanks of the Confederate Congress, and sent on a diplomatic mission to England by President Jefferson Davis.
While in London, he wrote articles for the pro-Confederate Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. The articles were later collected and published in book form as Memoirs of the Confederate War for IndependenceWhen the Confederacy collapsed in 1865, von Borcke returned to his native Prussia and resumed his military career. He fought in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War, receiving the coveted Order of the Red Eagle for his gallantry, but his old wounds continued to plague him, so he retired from the Prussian Army as Captain in 1867.
Von Borcke had three sons with his first wife, Magdalene Honig. When Magdalene passed away in 1883, he married her sister and they had a daughter named Karoline Virginia -- named in honor of his adopted, and beloved, southern state back in America.
Even after the war, von Borcke's maintained a deep affection, and respect, for the Confederacy. So much so, that unsuspecting visitors to East Prussia are often surprised to see the Confederate flag flying (next to the Prussian flag) from the battlements of von Borcke's ancestral estate in Geisenbrugge, Pomerania. In 1884, he returned to the United States for a reunion with many former friends and comrades, and presented his famous Damascus sword to them. The sword was later given to the State of Virginia.
Von Borcke is an aristocrat of some means, with a bent for adventure, meaning he could be encountered nearly anywhere in the solar system -- wherever the German flag is flown. However, his poor health (the result of his Civil War wound) make Mars' dry climate and lower gravity an attractive option. His sympathy for the Confederate cause means that he may also be encountered wherever a Confederate expatriate community exists.
Army (Veteran NPC)
Lieutenant-Colonel Heros von Borcke
Fisticuffs: 4, Throwing: 2, Close Combat: 4 (sword)
Stealth: 2, Marksmanship: 2 (pistol)
Wilderness Travel: 3
Observation: 1
Eloquence: 5
Riding: 5 (horse), Leadership: 2, Language: 1 (English)
Motives: Adventuresome, Arrogant, Eccentric
Apperance: With curly blond hair, laughing eyes and an engaging personality von Borcke has an imposing presence. By Nineteenth Century standards, he is larger than life, standing six feet four inches in height and weighing in at well over two hundred forty pounds. His stature, personality and social status make him popular among his peers. However, he can also be a bit vain and difficult to get along with at times, especially for his servants. Although he recovered from the wounds suffered in 1863, neither von Borcke's physical strength, nor his endurance, fully recovered (having been Str: 6, End: 4 as a young man).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Victorians and their Dogs

The Nineteenth Century ushered in an age of devotion to the dog. In fact the saying “man’s best friend” is traced to a poem printed in The New-York Literary Journal in 1821. Queen Victoria exemplified this devotion and loved her animals, in particular her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dash. The Queen commissioned many paintings of Dash, as well as her other dogs, these paintings lead to the rise of "dog art" and in particular portraits of pet dogs. Paintings by specialists like Arthur Wardle and Maud Earl, became "must have" items for the well-to-do merchant and aristocratic class home.
In fact, in some ways, no Victorian home was complete without at least one canine. The animals were symbols of wealth and status during Victoria's reign. Some dogs even had their own maids who fed, groomed and kept them clean. Popular lapdogs included the Schipperke, the Skye Terrier, the Yorkshire Terrier, the Maltese and the King Charles Spaniel. Dogs like the Jack Russell Terrier, that were too large to fit comfortably in a lap, were used for fox hunting and were also considered fashionable companion breeds. The Newfoundland, a gentle giant, was beloved for its docile yet protective nature, becoming “nanny dogs”, thanks to their love and devotion to the family’s children.
A focus on breeding, and "pure bred" lines, started during this time period, and several modern breeds originated in the 1800s. However the emphasis on breeding for aesthetics allowed less desirable traits, such as propensity for diseases, to pollute many genetic lines. Despite that fact, when Victorians began to value their dogs both as companions and as partners, the press for the humane treatment of the animals began, a trend for which the Queen would be proud!

Gold and Silver Government and Societies Medals Awarded.
Permanent Exhibition Sale at Schweintz, District Merseburg, stations Jessen-Holsdorf, Berl.-Anh. Railway, of always upwards of 100 superior Dogs such as Ulm, Danish, English, Mountain, Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, and Pet Dogs.
For the forthcoming hunting season I beg to offer thoroughly trained, also rough, Hunting, Pointers, Terriers, and Greyhounds, who can be brought to Zahna, a station between Leipsic and Berlin, over my extensive hunting-grounds, by my own huntsman if required.
Illustrated Price-Lists, with 50 Illustrations, in the German, French and Dutch languages, with full particulars respecting breed, qualities, and description, with references to well-known sportsmen in all parts of the world, sent free and post paid on application.
My Album of 50 various Dog breeds, which have been awarded a first prize, and containing directions as to care, breeding, treatment, and training of the Luxury and Hunting hound, is to be obtained for 10s.
Address for letters and telegrams,
OTTO FRIEDRICH, Zahna, Prussia.

A "hat tip" to the Aurora Regency blog's Kristin Burlingame, for her Dogs in Victorian Times post.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Martian Thunder Jugs

A heavy thunder jug on a naval mount.
The Martians, like eighteenth century Earthmen, developed short smoothbore cannon that fire heavy shot for their weight. These cannon can throw their projectile only a short distance, but it arrives with shattering impact. On Earth these weapons gained fame as "carronades." On Mars they are known as "thunder jugs."
Thunder jugs have never enjoyed the widespread acceptance of their terrestrial counterparts . Short cannons can never match the range, accuracy or penetrating power of their longer bored cousins. At most ranges they are inferior to them. if however a ship armed with long guns can be lured into carronade range, the short guns will quickly decimate it. Light-weight weapons mean more bangs for the ton, with more hits. Since each hit has the same chance of causing damage, the more hits the better. The average damage value (DV) per ton of weapons and rate of fire per DV are also higher with thunder jugs, giving a ship armed with a larger number (but identical weight) of them the ability to batter a long-gunned opponent to splinters.
The light thunder jug behind a bulkhead.
Short cannons appeal most to armed ships whose primary business is not warmaking. The small crew sizes and simplicity of operation of thunder jugs means that a merchant skipper can hire less crew and waste less time in training. This, coupled with their range and penetrating power limitations, have meant that historically that thunder jugs have most often been met with aboard armed merchant kites that are interested in defense. Most kites mount but a few jugs. However, some Warm Winds-class ships have been seen with up to ten of the heavy thunder jugs on each broadside. The small size of the weapons also make them easy to conceal. More than one pirate has been obliterated by a hail of carronade shot as it came alongside what it thought was easy prey. To players this will mean that a Martian merchant kite will be able to carry impressive short range fire power, enough to fend off machine gun armed European privateers. The next encounter your players have with a Warm Winds out of Crocea might be more bloody than anticipated. A broadside of grapeshot from a battery of thunder jugs is enough to make even the heartiest of Red Captains consider a safer occupation.
Martian Thunder Jugs
Weapon Wt Pen Dv ROF Crew Rng Cost
Light 10 0/0 2 1 1 0/1 200
Heavy 20 1/0 3 1 2 1/2 400
About the Author
Terry Sofian describes himself as a generalist in a world of specialists. He has worked as a genetic engineer, in disaster preparedness and homeland security management, and in health, safety and environmental compliance for hospitals, nuclear waste cleanup sites and numerous industry clients. He has had a novella, Blackwater Ghosts, published in Weird Tales and several non-fiction pieces in The Coast Artillery Journal and Warship International. His current projects include the Steampunk/Victorian Science Fiction setting of Stars of Empire, also known as Hive, Queen and Country. Using Black Pigeon Press' incredibly adaptable Hacktastic game engine allows players to adventure in an altered Victorian era, facing threats from both Earth and Off-World. He lives in the Midwest with his amazing wife Shannon and has an extremely bright daughter Kelly.

by Terry Sofian, ©1993; this article originally appeared in Transactions of the Royal Martian Geographical Society, Vol. 1, No. 7. It is used here with the author's permission.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

French Ironclad Colbert

The central battery ironclad Colbert is one of the ten ships of the French navy that constitute the group ranking next in importance to the squadron of great turret ships, of which the Formidable is the largest. The group consists of six types, as follows:
274mm cannon in the armoured section of a Colbert class
ironclad, by Gustave Bourgain, circa 1885. 
  1. The Ocean type; three vessels; the Marengo, Ocean, and Suffren.
  2. The Friedland type, of which no others are built.
  3. The Richelieu type, of which no others are built.
  4. The Colbert type, of which there are two; the Colbert and the Trident.
  5. The Redoubtable type, of which no others are built.
  6. The Devastation type, of which no others are built.
Laid down in 1870, the Colbert was launched at Brest in 1875, and her sister ship, the Trident, in 1876. Both are of iron and wood, and the following are the principal dimensions of the Colbert, which apply very closely to the Trident: She is 321 ft. 6 in. long, 59 ft. 6 in. beam, and 29 ft. 6 in. draught aft. Her displacement is 8,457 tons, her indicated horse power is 4,652, and her speed 14.4 knots. She has coal carrying capacity for 700 tons, and her crew numbers 706. The thickness of her armor belt is 8.66 in., that protecting the central battery is 6.29 in. thick, which is also the thickness of the transverse armored bulkheads, while the deck is 0.43 in. in thickness.
the French ironclad war ship Colbert.
The Colbert-class was designed by Constructor Sabattier as an improved version of the ironclad Richelieu and they were the last ships authorized in the 1857 Naval Program. The class reverted to a single propeller shaft to improve sailing qualities and to lessen the chance of the propellers being fouled by fallen rigging. As central battery ironclads, their armament is concentrated amidships and consists of eight old 11 in. guns, two 9 in., six 6 in., four deck mounted torpedo tubes, and fourteen revolving and machine guns. Like most ironclads of their era, they are also equipped with a plough-shaped ram.
While the exact reason for such a prolonged construction time is not known, it is believed that reduction of the French Navy's budget after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 and out-of-date work practices in French dockyards were likely causes.—Engineering.
Technical Specifications:
Bow: 1o9, A: 1o9, FS: 1o11, BS: [3o11], 3o6; DT-4, 14QF

click image for a PDF copy of the ship chart.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ships of the Line

Swift Class Aerial Monitor (200 tons)
click image to download a PDF version.
The Swift gunboats are an experimental attempt to increase safety for British shipping in the Oenotrian border regions, especially near the foothills of the Shistomik Mountain range. While it bears a resemblance to the slightly smaller Aphid class, it learns from the lessons taught by previous Martian experience. It has the same armor, allowing it to ignore the effects of the smaller Martian cloudship guns, but in addition, it also armors all its guns, including its complement of four Nordenfelts. This was done to protect the relatively small crew complement from damage that the ship would otherwise ignore. Aphids have a poor reputation for crew safety, sometimes limping home in good condition, but with decimated crews, the open gun mounts making them easy prey to hostile fire. The Swift also uses the new forced draught steam engines, which allow it sufficient speed to evade almost all ramming attempts, as well as being able to pursue and overtake all known vessels in the colonies. Three Hale rocket batteries provide short range firepower, and the 3" HRC's, while small, have a high rate of fire, and are sufficient to wreak havoc on the poorly protected Martian vessels which the Swift was designed to combat.
Critics of the Swift complain that it does not have enough long range weaponry, and its altitude limitations render it vulnerable to attacks by the Martian Fire so common on larger vessels. Also, since it has only one Marine observer, it is especially vulnerable to being boarded. These criticisms are largely ignored at this point, since it is not designed to assault the crag keeps of the High Martians, and its batteries of Nordenfelts should be sufficient to discourage all but the most suicidal of boarding parties. Also, if this should become a problem, the Hale batteries can be easily dismounted, which would provide sufficient room for a temporary complement of six more Marines, quite enough for a vessel of this size.
Impenetrable Class Aerial Monitor (1000 tons)
click image to download a PDF version.
The Impenetrable is largest vessel currently under construction at the Syrtis Major shipyards. While not the largest vessel in Martian use, she will be the most heavily armored. In fact, the armor plating of the hull is too complex for the limited facilities on Mars, and the vessel is being shipped piece by piece from Birmingham, and assembled on site. As expected, this is a very costly undertaking, and the Foreign Office has drawn considerable fire from the liberal press for this "escalation of warlike tendencies" and "waste of money". The official rationale for the Impenetrable is that a vessel impervious to Martian weapons will prove the futility of native resistance, and once and for all stop the insurrections and piracy on British shipping that are now a major problem. Indeed, only the heaviest of Martian weapons can penetrate the hide of this vessel, while her complement of weapons is sufficient to destroy many Martian vessels in a single broadside. While not the awesome guns of water-bound ironclads, they are able to penetrate the armor of any foreign naval vessel currently in use. It is exactly these qualities which makes it such a destabilizing influence. Many fear that a vessel impenetrable by Martian weapons will drive the rebellious factions into the arms of some other nation which can supply them with heavier weapons, leading eventually to all-out warfare.
Critics of the design note its lack of heavy armament, altitude restrictions, and small complement of marines, all necessary sacrifices to achieve the extraordinary level of armor on the vessel. To its credit, it has a normal 20 day steaming range, a highly respectable top speed, and sufficient staying power to survive battles against more heavily armed opponents.
On the current construction schedule, observers note that it will be approximately 18 months before the Impenetrable can be launched, not counting delays due to public sentiment, economics, or potential problems with demagnetizing such a large mass of metal to avoid premature liftwood deterioration.
Swiftwing Courier (83 tons) - Screw galley
click image to download a PDF version.
Oenotrian factions battling the British are hampered not only by the tenacity of the Colonial army, but also by the age and tradition of their race. Unable or unwilling to change to more modern technologies, they require vastly superior numbers in any sort of military engagement, and still take frightful losses on occasion. However, not all Martians are hidebound by the ancient traditions, and some very few are learning lessons from colonial forces. Some of the first signs of this are shown in the Swiftwing, a ship built solely for high speed transport of cargo or important persons. Some seventy-five percent of the vessel is taken up with slave turncranks, giving the Swiftwing an extraordinary burst speed of 25 knots. This is also partially due to improvements in their airscrews, the design appearing a direct copy of the latest British vessels. The sole armament of the Swiftwing is a stern mounted sweeper, although up to 5 marines or an important personage and their bodyguards can also be carried.
Swiftwings are currently being used as scouts and transports, and sightings have preceded attacks on at least two occasions. While not quite as fast as some British vessels, superior knowledge of terrain and local sympathy have allowed almost all Swiftwings to escape capture by colonial forces. The only one that has been captured so far was also equipped with facilities for mounting a mast and sails, a feature which would greatly extend its cruising range and long-term speed, but expert analysis indicates that the extra weight of rigging would mandate a reduction of the extra crew, removal of the stern gun, or a sacrifice of maximum altitude.
Cleansing Wind (400 tons) - Screw galley
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The Cleansing Wind is another disturbing development of cloudship design, showing that more and more, new ideas are gaining acceptance in the traditional quarters of the Martian military. Others claim it is a sign of covert foreign support, but cooler heads say it seems unlikely the Oenotrian forces are desperate enough to join one set of "Red Devils" to repel another. The expert opinion at this time is that the design is an independent pirate vessel, but there is no proof one way or the other. Both the name and the style of this new ship have caused concern in diplomatic and military circles, although as yet, only one example has been seen.
The Cleansing Wind has almost abandoned the traditional screw galley design and armament in favor of a more modern outlook, and at range can be mistaken for a British vessel. Whether this is by design, or just simple plagiarism has yet to be determined. It does not mount any of the heavy rod or lob guns usually found on the larger screw galleys, and is not equipped with that most traditional of Martian weapons, the ram. Instead, it mounts three heavy guns, two lights and four sweepers, along with a single rack of the deadly Martian Fire. All these weapons are effective against the lighter of Her Majesty's ships, and especially so against civilian shipping. For a Martian vessel, it is singularly well armed, in quantity if not quality, and with a top speed measured at 20 knots, able to maintain distance from most heavy vessels, and close with the relatively slow merchants it may encounter. The size of the vessel is also disturbing. It is not a large vessel in Martian terms, and is seems very likely it was designed to accompany larger vessels or operate with large groups of similar sized ships.
The only sighting of this vessel to date was from H.M.S. Bellerophon, an Aphid class gunboat operating out of Srytis Major. The Cleansing Wind was encountered on a routine patrol, and refused to heave to. After an inconclusive engagement, both vessels turned and delivered point-blank broadsides. Bellerophon, crippled by a magazine explosion, made it home only by jettisoning her coal reserves, while the Cleansing Wind was unable to pursue due to heavy screw damage. However, it was seen to leave the area under its own power before Bellerophon disappeared from sight, and is presumed to be fully repaired by this time.
Scenario - Surprise Encounter
HMS Warrior, a Swift class monitor, was engaged in towing home HMS Firefly, an Aphid class gunboat which had been damaged in a scuffle in the Shistomik lowlands, when they encountered two Oenotrian vessels searching for prey. In hostile territory, with one crippled vessel, Her Majesty's ships decide to flee to friendly territory rather than get into a protracted engagement.
The Martian vessels, surprised by the appearance of the British vessels, nonetheless seized the opportunity, and attempted to cripple or destroy the Red Devils without taking any losses themselves.
Setup - Martians get the Cleansing Wind and a Small Bird screw galley, which they set up anywhere in the three hexes between the crags on the mountain map. One vessel is allowed per hex, and both must be facing along that row of hexes. Cleansing Wind has Canal Martian marines, armed with muskets. Initial altitude is High.
British start with the Warrior, and an Aphid class gunboat. Warrior starts in the hex with "1889" in it, facing NW, and Firefly is in the hex immediately behind it. Initial altitude is Medium. Firefly may start the game towed, in which case the vessels move at speed 4, or may be cut loose, in which case they move separately. The tow line may be cut at the start of any British movement, but the Firefly does not get to move at all on that turn.
Special Rules - Firefly has been damaged. The 1 pound HRC and Nordenfelt on the starboard side have been destroyed, and their crews killed. Mark them off. In addition, she is missing one deck crew, one engine crew, and three hull boxes. Due to engine damage, Firefly can only move intermittently. Each turn, right before British movement, roll 1d6. This is the number of MP the Firefly has for that turn. Initially, Warrior may assign some of her crew complement to Firefly, in which case these crew are subtracted from those on the Warrior. If either ship is forced to lose altitude due to damage, the stress will immediately sever the tow line, leaving Firefly immobilized for a turn.
Victory Conditions - Martians get 2 VP for each British ship destroyed or grounded, and 1 VP for each ship de-crewed or de-weaponed. British get 2 VP for each Martian ship destroyed or grounded, and 1 VP for each ship de-crewed or de-weaponed. In addition, the British get 1 VP per ship for exiting Warrior or Firefly off any edge of the NW map quadrant at an average speed greater than any Martian pursuit, at the instant the ship leaves the map. The base average speed of the Firefly is 3.5MP.
Optional Rule - Ballast dumping. British ships may, in an emergency, dump 90% of their coal reserves through chutes in the bottom of the hull. This reduces their cruising range to six strategic hexes, but lightens the ship enough to offset liftwood loss, temporarily erasing the last row of hull damage. This is announced at the start of movement, occurs during combat, and takes effect at the start of the next movement. It is only done when a crash is the inevitable result of severe damage. It also acts as an anti-personnel weapon, doing 1d6-3 "P" hits to anyone beneath the deluge of fist-sized coals, with additional minuses to the roll based on range, as per Martian Fire rules, and +1 per 2 hull sizes (round down) of the jettisoning vessel. Martian screw galleys can do much the same, jettisoning food, water, and dead turncrank slaves, but only get half (round up) a row of hull boxes, and their range is reduced to 4 hexes. This does not do damage to vessels below them. Kites may jettison cargo, gaining half a row of hull boxes for each twenty percent of their loaded mass they discard. Martian jettisoning requires at least one crew per 2 hull sizes to jettison the extra weight in one turn. Otherwise, it takes proportionately longer (round up).
Strategy - Both sides are hampered by altitude limits, and the rocky crags hamper visibility as well as movement. Of the numerous Martian guns, only the heavy and rogue guns can hurt the Warrior, while the Aphid is also vulnerable to these, and especially vulnerable to antipersonnel weapons with her reduced crew. However, the Cleansing Wind should not present her bow to either British ship at any time. Although all three heavy guns can fire into the bow arc, they are the only guns that can do so, and any gun hits will always take out a big gun. The Small Bird is capable of inflicting heavy damage with its rogue gun, and this should be used on the Firefly first, at close range. Already damaged, three hits of any type are likely to be crippling.
The best British course is probably to split up. While in theory, the average speed of Firefly is reduced, the average fleet maneuverability is increased, and Warrior can now take full advantage of her top speed. With starboard guns damaged, the Firefly's best broadside potential is only realized if a course is charted due north, skirting the crags and then going west, while Warrior, with its superior speed, is best served by going west, then north. All in all, the north-then-west option allows a fast exit, while still being able to take advantage of crag cover. The high rate of fire of all the Warrior's guns and rockets is murderous on both the unarmored Martian vessels, but the temptation to deliver a point-blank broadside should be tempered with the knowledge that one good roll from the Martian Fire can utterly destroy either British ship. The British can do a sacrifice play by destroying the Small Bird, and then exiting the Warrior (leaving the Aphid to its fate), but this is a marginal victory, and not very sporting. Likewise, the Martians can destroy the Firefly, and then attempt to exit the map for a victory, but would likely be pursued unless the Warrior was immobilized.

by Greg Porter, ©1991. This article originally appeared in issues #7 and #8 of The Game Oracle. It is used here with the permission of the author.

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