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Space: 1889

Entry updated 11 January 2018. Tagged: Game.

Role Playing Game (1988). Game Designers' Workshop (GDW). Designed by Frank Chadwick.

Space: 1889 is an early example of Steampunk, set in an Alternate History whose central conceit is that many of the now discarded scientific theories of the Victorian age were actually correct. So, in this universe, Thomas Alva Edison invents an "ether propellor" and uses it to travel to Mars in 1870. By 1889 the Great Powers of the 19th Century have expanded into space and begun to colonize the worlds of the inner solar system. Many of the planets in the game are analogs of continents on Earth during the Victorian era. Thus Venus, a savage jungle populated by primitive lizardmen, resembles the colonial view of Africa; Mars, a patchwork of warring ancient cultures, references India, and Mercury, on which the only habitable land borders a world girdling river between the superheated Day Side and the frozen Night Side, is analogous to Antarctica. The inner planets also express a Pseudoscientific theory of evolution, in which life evolves along a single path from the dinosaurs of Venus through the mammals of Earth to the multiple intelligent species of Mars. The classic archetypes of Steampunk fiction – mad anarchists, eccentric scientists, upright adventurers and daring adventuresses – provide a colourful population for the setting, though much emphasis is also placed on exotic devices, from orbiting interplanetary heliographs to steam powered aerial warships.

The rules system emphasizes combat over most other tasks; many players have combined the highly atmospheric setting with more flexible mechanics taken from other games. The military focus may be related to the game's origins in Sky Galleons of Mars (1988 GDW) designed by Frank Chadwick, Loren Wiseman, Marc Miller, a miniatures-based Wargame which presents a variation on 19th Century naval warfare in which the opposing ships are borne aloft by the Antigravity properties of the Martian "liftwood" plant. The expansion Cloudships and Gunboats (1989 GDW) designed by Frank Chadwick includes rules for using Sky Galleons of Mars for tactical ship combat within Space: 1889. Ironclads and Ether Flyers (1990 GDW) designed by Frank Chadwick is another Wargame, focusing on naval ships and aerial gunboats on Earth, while The Soldier's Companion (1989 GDW) designed by Frank Chadwick is a set of wargaming rules for army miniatures in the setting, including details on such Steampunk devices as land juggernauts and giant walking tripods.

Related works: Temple of the Beastmen (1989 GDW) designed by Frank Chadwick, Lester Smith is a Board Game, based on a rescue expedition in the mines of a Martian King. Space: 1889 (1990 Paragon Software, AtariST, DOS; 1991 Amiga) is an excellently crafted plan view Computer Role Playing Game, offering many exotic incidents and opportunities for exploration, in which the players become involved in a quest for immortality. Space 1889: Red Sands (2010 Pinnacle Entertainment Group [PEG]) designed by William Reger, Clint Black, Matthew Cutter, Joel Kinstle, Piotr Koryś, Tony Lee is a version of the setting for the generic rules system Savage Worlds (2003 PEG; rev 2005) designed by Shane Lacy Hensley, which seems rather better suited for the milieu than its original mechanics.

Four audio plays have been produced by Noise Monster Productions: Red Devils (2005) by Jonathan Clements; The Steppes of Thoth (2005) by James Swallow; The Siege of Alclyon (2005) by Marc Platt and The Lunar Inheritance (2005) by Richard Dinnick and Andy Frankham, of which the first three make up the Arina Stone trilogy. As of 2011, a series of Ebook Ties is being published by Untried Reads. To date this sequence comprises Journey to the Heart of Luna (2011 ebook) by Andy Frankham-Allen, Vandals on Venus (2011 ebook) by K G McAbee, Ghosts of Mercury (2011 ebook) by Mark Michalowski, Abattoir in the Aether (2012 ebook) by L Joseph Shosty and A Prince of Mars (2012 ebook) by Frank Chadwick; all of these works are loosely based on adventures found variously in the original rules and in the supplement Tales From The Ether (1989) designed by Frank Chadwick, Marc Miller, Tim Ryan, Lester Smith, Loren Wiseman. [NT]


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