Finally, after fifteen years of increasing more realistic science fiction RPGs (Traveller to Twilight:2000 and Traveller:2300), GDW has taken a giant step backward into Victorian Science Fantasy.
SPACE:1889 is about adventures in the near PAST, when (western) Man's noble nature as a superior being has enabled him to crack the gateway to the very heavens themselves! In 1870, young Thomas Edison, working with scientist Etienne Moreau and his Theory of Ether, devised a means of locomotion through the pure ether above the atmosphere of Earth. In a primitive ship that entered and exited the atmosphere by hydrogen balloon, he and Scottish adventurer Armstrong visited Mars, and found it inhabited.
No, they're yellow, not green or red. And to them, we look red.
Naturally, the Empire (uh, the British Empire, naturally - is there another?) established relations with a Martian Prince or two, moved in offices, and eventually troops... As did the Belgians, with the Americans, French, Germans, Russians, and Japanese looking for a piece of pie. Imperialism at its best and worst (often the same thing).
Mars is portrayed as a fascinatingly exotic place, much as the Europeans found India and China - a civilization far older than theirs, once capable of far mightier things than they are now - but of course, forced to bow under superior technological might.
To use their own hype:
Everything Jules Verne should have written
Everything A. Conan Doyle thought of, but never published - because it was too fantastic.
What? No mention of Edgar Rice Bouroughs?
SPACE:1889 is due out in January, 1989. Knowing GDW's track record for putting things out, I'd imagine it will appear more like March or April.....
Mars, however, is the only source of liftwood so far known. Liftwood has the ability to defy gravity, and so floats in the air. It is from this that the famed Sky Galleons of Mars are made. Thus the reason for seeking it as part of an empire.
Sky Galleons of Mars is a game in its own right, much as Traveller and Traveller:2300 have space combat game, that includes the game and design rules. Sky Galleons of Mars is out now. GDW has a companion game/expansion kit (same rules now include interplanetary craft and wet-navy ships on eaurbin.net/EWWonclads and Etherships."
This article was written based on information garnered from GDW's magazine Challenge #34. Personally, I had hoped that the magazine would include some hint of design notes. Is the game system similar to one of their other three games? (well, yes, Traveller:2300 and MegaTraveller are rather similar...) They included nothing on the subject.
They did include background articles about ether travel, a Sky Galleon of Mars scenario and an article about the canals of Mars, all as tantalization. And they promise an article on the Victorian Age for next issue.
In any game of SPACE:1889 I run, you can be assured that there will be an expected NPC floating about....
"What was that chap's name again, Sah Major?"
"The Yank, sah? John Carter, sah."
"Oh, yes. A Virginian. Gone native, eh?"
"Yes, Sah. Marshies say he's more more Martian than they are. 'He is made of the sands of the deserts, with the waters of the canals flowing through his veins.' What rot."
"Pity. But what can one expect from an American..."