This article represents an elaboration of the current state of fleet readiness on Mars. Many new ship designs exist here, as well as some rule modifications and design notes. I hope this is of value to all those who play Sky Galleons of Mars or Space:1889
The MEDEA is a mid-sized Aerial Gunboat just built at the start of hostilities against the Oenotrians. It had actually been designed in 1884 when the Aerial forces of Mars were still part of the old Aerial Service. Essentially a scaled-down version of the successful Reliant design, Construction on the Medea was halted when the Royal Navy took over, since they favoured designs with center-line ordnamce, like the Thunderer and the Dauntless, which it continued to build.
The Medea had already been partially built, however; her hull was mostly complete, and gun emplacememnts already were in place. Basically, all that was required was some finishing work on the boiler, and the liftwood panels required to make her fly. However, liftwood was at a premium, so the Medea lay in a warehouse, forgotten, for four years.
With the outbreak of hostilities against Oenotria, the government ordered the virtually-finished Medea made operable, on the grounds that all ships near completion must be completed and ready for action as soon as possible. When the government discovered that the Medea had lain in a warehouse for that long, it ordered the immediate outfitting of the Medea for action. Since then, the Medea has performed admirably, despite her limitations, and consideration is being made of producing a sister ship, the Hecate, sometime in 1890.
The Medea has a few quirks; for example, most of her weaponry is a little out-dated; rather than using the more modern (and Navy-Standard) Nordenfelt 5-barrel machineguns, she uses the older .50-Calibre Gatlings; likewise, her main armament consists of the older 40-pounder guns, rather than 4" longs, or 4.7" longs. Nevertheless, this armament is still quite effective, particularily on Mars, where the native weaponry has pretty short range. Also, the Medea's maximum altitude is a little lower than most Navy vessels of that size. However, she is equipped with an upward-firing Hale Rocket battery, to prevent vessels from passing overhead.
The GYRFALCON is a special class of vessel designed by the Royal Navy as a ground-support vehicle. Sometime in 1888, as tensions rose between the British Crown and the Oenotrian Empire, the British Army requested that a ship class be designed for the purpose of ground support, rather than for ship-to-ship battles. The Navy, more or less acquiescing, produced the Gyrfalcon, which is a vessel capable of delivering a withering attack on targets at a lower altitude. It soon became clear, however, that Gyrfalcon was not in fact designed for ground support so much as for attacking other aerial vessels from a higher altitude. The Gyrfalcon began to become known as a "High Guard Gunboat", and was shortly reassigned to duties in the conventional aeronaval theatre.
Naturally, the Army was outraged. The Royal Navy had been ordered to produce a vessel designed to assist the Army, and it clearly had not done so, but had rather used the funds to its own ends. Once again the supporters of the Army appealed to Parliament, and this time the Army was allocated funds and shipyard space for the purpose of building a vessel capable of dropping bombs. The vessel that was designed to suit this need was the Storm-class Aerial Gunboat.
However, by the time Parliament ordered the production of the Storm, a second Gyrfalcon-class vessel, the Goshawk, was already being built. The Navy went about finishing building the Goshawk before even starting work on the Storm, delaying its launch even further.
Though the Gyrfalcon does not pack as much conventional punch as the Aphid, it is particularly good at doing what it was designed for; assaulting aerial vessels from above. With two downward-firing Hale Rocket batteries, two 1-Pounder Pom-Poms, and a 3" Long gun, all able to fire on targets forward, The Gyrfalcon can deliver a withering first round attack against a lightly armoured vessel below it's bow. Its 3" gun, though lighter than the Aphid's, is placed under armor in the same style as the Dauntless; in fact the Gyrfalcon owes a great deal of its design style to the Dauntless, though it has no main rear gun, and thus avoids the principal design flaw of the Dauntless.
Overall, it is likely that the Navy will continue producing the Gyrfalcon design (the next sceduled models will be called the Tercel, the Sorrelhawk, and the Musket), but production has stopped for the time being because of the politically charged history of the vessel.
The SPRITE is the first class of vessel ever built by the Syrtis Major yards after they came under British control. Essentially a long-range scout vessel, the Sprite is a small, unarmored vessel with only limited utility as a combat vessel. Her lack of armour and small size make her vulnerable to just about any amount of hostile fire. However, the Sprite is not actually designed for combat; she instead has a 30-day endurance and can carry five passengers.
A great many ships of this class have been built, and not all of them have been purchased for use by H.M.'s government; many have been purchased privately, and can be found in the hands of a variety of individuals and organizations.
A variety of variants have also been produced. |
The GYPSY is a version with a smaller main gun, lower endurance (20 days), and a 20-ton cargo hold, used for transporting valuable cargoes. The cargo hold can also be used as a secondary coal bunker, increasing endurance to 40 days. Most of these have been purchased privately.
|The FURIE is an armored version of the Sprite, which uses a 6-pounder Hotchkiss Machine Cannon as it's primary armament instead of the 3-inch gun. It has a lower endurance as well (20 days), and is primarily used for transporting military V.I.P.'s and as a naval courier.|
The SIREN is a straightforward version of the original Sprite design but uses the weight advantage conferred from the use of a Forced-Draught boiler to upgrade its main armament to a 3" Long (15-pounder) gun. Since the Siren can outrange just about any vessel in Martian service, the Siren has ended up being used occaisionally as a para-military vessel, and one was even used for some time as a privateer operating under a letter of marque from the British government.
|Faery||1880||Royal Navy (Lost in Action 1882)|
|Leprechaun||1882||Private (Missing in 1882, presumed Lost)|
(renamed Marie Claire)
|Magic||1886||Private (Missing in 1888, presumed lost)|
|Foxfire||1887||Private (Privateer under Letter of Marque)|
|Wanderer||1883||Private (Lost in 1885)|
|Guide||1884||Private (HBTC) (Lost in 1888)|
|North Star||1888||Private (White Star Line)|
|Harpy||1886||Royal Navy (on loan to Army)|
Since it's inception in 1880, the Sprite has been produced in some volumes on Earth as well; it has a variety of uses as an explorer, courier, reconnaissance craft, and all around utility vehicle. The Royal Navy operates a number of them, and many, as on Mars, have found themselves in private hands. Worthy of note is the one operated by the North West Mounted Police, just purchased in 1887, called the Aurora, which has provoked a number of jokes about frivolous expenditure in the Canadian Parliament and press, particularily referring to the "Royal Canadian Flying Police"; it has also been referred to as a "Flying Circus" and an "Air Farce". However, it can certainly be said that the use of the Aurora has extended the arm of the NWMP greatly into the far north, into regions that it used to take weeks or even months to reach by conventional means.
Since a normal aerial gunboat, such as the Aphid, would be unavailable to player-characters unless they were either still enlisted in the Royal Navy, or commissioned one out of their own funds, I felt the game needed a smaller version which might be found in private hands.
The ships of the Parhoon Auxiliary are generally described as "Martian Screw Galleys with Gatling Guns strapped to the decks", though this desctription is somewhat unfair. While many Auxiliary ships are refitted screw galleys with European armament such as Gatling weapons, the Parhoon Auxiliary has begun constructing it's own made-to-order ships in the Parhoon Shipyard.
While these ships of necessity have wooden hulls, and must take a back seat to the RN for acquiring up-to-date weaponry (hence the dependence on Gatlings), nevertheless the Parhoon Auxiliary has begun to take the initiative and build it's own brand new vessels.
The ALLIANCE is the Parhoon Auxiliary's first ship equipped with a Steam Boiler. While not an overlarge ship, the Alliance has a strong main weapon (a 40-pounder gun), and a large number of machine cannons and machineguns. Though the Alliance must get close to an enemy to use the full effect of it's armament, when it does so the effect can be devastating.
However, the long range of the 40-pounder and the high speed of the Alliance can allow her to keep her distance and harass an enemy from afar, if she so wishes. In addition, the Alliance also posesses a decent sized marine contingent, and is equipped with a ram. With her good speed and high ceiling she can expect to be able to ram any vessel she chooses. However, typically she will try to reduce the crew levels of an enemy ship before boarding. She can do this both with her machineguns and with her spike droppers, and of course her marines can engage in small arms fire from the deck.
The Alliance, and her sister ship Covenant ar both named to commemorate the partnership between the British Crown and the city of Parhoon, which is technically an ally administered by the Crown on behalf of it's underage Prince. However, like it or not the British do weild the real power in Parhoon, and while the Parhooni may consider themselves "Partners" of the British, they are certainly junior partners.
The KRAAG-BREAKER is a captured High Martian Glory Sled vessel converted by the Parhoon Auxiliary to use Gatling Guns as their secondary armament. The Kraag-Breaker still retains it's Martian main weaponry, which includes a Martian Lob Gun. Several Adams lead shots and exploding shots are carried for this weapon, but only a limited number (generally four each) thanks to their expense.
The Kraag-Breaker, unlike the Glory Sled, has a small marine contingent and is better able to exploit a successful ram. Likewise, since the Turncranks on the Kraag-Breaker are volunteers rather than slaves, they can be used to assist a boarding attempt after the marines make their attack. However, the Kraag-Breaker still has only limited antipersonnel weaponry and is better suited to more conventional stand-up battles. The potential damage taken from four 1" gatling weapons is considerable, provided an enemy is close enough to be in range.
The Kraag-Breaker has an exemplary record in fighting High Martians, and has been in operation by the Parhoon Auxiliary almost since it's inception. As a result, the Kraag-Breaker is one of the most highly sought vessels in terms of crew assignments, particularily for the Martian Enlisted men drawn from Parhooni volunteers. The crew can generally be considered to be crack.
The BLOODGUARD is a much-copied design originally laid down in the city of Ausonia. Located near a good source of liftwood, the City of Ausonia's medium-size shipyard is known for building innovative types of vessels.
The design strategy of the Bloodguard is to create a vessel capable of flying overhead of a large vessel; blasting it with grapeshot and spikes, then lowering down to the altitude of the stricken ship, and boarding it using it's Power Grapnel. The Bloodguard has a strong marine contingent and is capable of overwhelming most ships through boarding actions after attacking it with it's spike droppers.
As such, the Bloodguard has become a popular mid-sized ship in the navies of the Hellas region, and can even be seen in the navies of Trinacria and Tyrrhenia.
Many variants of the Bloodguard exist; one design replaces the Light gun with a Rogue and the Heavies with Lights, while another replaces them with a Heavy and two Rod Guns. Another eliminates the Liquid Fire rack and replaces the Light gun with another Heavy. A fourth also removes the Liquid Fire rack and adds another Spike Dropper, and converts the Light to a Rod Gun.
The BRIGHTSPEAR screw galley is a fairly typical medium-size screw galley. It is well armed for it's size, and has a ram and a speed good enough to make use of it, though it does not have the ability to reach Very High altitude. As it stands, the Brightspear can generally pursue either a gun battle startegy or a ram-and-board strategy, whichever suits the moment most.
Generally if the Brightspear is about to ram, it will load all three forward heavies with grapeshot and blast away at close range prior to boarding. If it is engaging ships in a gun duel, the Brightspear will generally maneuver so that it can bring it's rogue to bear in a broadside, and then the next turn while the Rogue is reloading it will try to position itself so that it's enemy is in front of it, so as to bring all three heavies to bear.
The Brightspear has the typical rakish look of ships from the Hesperian/Cimmerian region, with a broad foredeck that is reminiscent of ships from Karkarham. The Brightspear can be found operating in fleets from many cities within this region. A few variations do exist, but the Brightspear is a difficult design to improve on.
The HULK class screw galley is a Parhooni design and is a common sight in the Boreosyrtis league and Aetheria, as the design has been exported widely. When Parhoon came under the control of Great Britain, two of these vessels (the HULK and the FIRE MOUNTAIN) formed the backbone of the Parhoon navy. Others, such as the Umbran ship OGRESS, have served with distinction as well.
The Hulk is designed as a heavy line-of-battle ship. It can bring three rogues to bear against any facing, has a battery of Sweepers facing broadside to protect it from boarding actions, and has a centrally mounted Lob Gun. It is somewhat slow and is unable to reach VH altitude, but nevertheless this is rarely a problem, as few vessels her size can go higher. In case of an enemy ship passing overhead, however, the Hulk is equipped with a pair of tether mines.
Detractors of the design have suggested that the Lob Gun wastes tonnage and the fact that the ship's armament can only fire every other round makes her vulnerable to being swarmed. The Lob gun could be scrapped to mahe room for four heavies firing to broadside, for example. However, the Hulk has performed reasonably well against other vessels her size, and repains a popular flagship for many northern city-states.
During the first war of Parhoon Succession against Gorovaan, the Hulk and her sister ship Fire Mountain were refitted with a variety of modern weapons, most notably gatling guns, which replaced the batteries of sweepers. The modification was a huge success, and the fleet of Parhoon met with unprecedented success against the Gorovaangian fleet. From then on the Parhoon Auxiliary would retain a tradition of improvising the combination of new and old technologies.
While the HULK was eventually sold to the Boreosyrtis league (after returning her to her original pre-refitted state), the FIRE MOUNTAIN still remains in Parhoon service with extensive modifications. Her Rogues have been replaced with 40-pounder rifled breechloaders, and the Lob Gun has been replaced by a 7" Rifled Howitzer. The Sweepers have been replaced by four 1" Gatlings and six .50-cal. gatlings all facing broadside. The weight savings from this modification allows the Fire Mountain to reach Very High altitude.
The SKYFIST is a fairly typical ship design from the Sabaeus region, whose blocky, boat-shaped designs are well known. Essentially the Skyfist is designed to engage in stand-up gun duels, and her armored hull can take a fair amount of punishment, especially from lighter weapons.
The principal difficulty with the Skyfist is that while she excels at her specialty, she performs poorly when her opponents do not simply stand and fight. The Skyfist is rather slow and not very maneuverable, and her lack of marines makes her very vulnerable to boarding. More than one Skyfist has been lost to High Martian attack.
Nevertheless, in the more conventional sea basin regions of Mars, the Skyfist performs well, particularily when formed into squadrons of 4-6 ships. In such cases the Skyfists wil try to stick together and cover one another, rather than getting drawn out of formation in pursuit of other ships.
Variants of the Skyfist exist which use different weapons for the primary armament. Versions that mount a pair of Rogues to fire broadside rather than the three Heavies are not uncommon, and versions that mount four Rod Guns are also sometimes seen.
The Warlock is another Sabaean design, with a blocky, boatlike shape. However, unlike the Skyfist, the WARLOCK is designed for ramming and boarding. Her high speed, high ceiling, and large (50 man) marine compliment make her one of the best designs for doing this.
The WARLOCK is armed with a number of Spike Droppers, and will often attempt to pass overhead of a potential target and drop spikes before boarding. However, with a 50 man marine compliment, this is often unneccessary. Also, should an enemy ship manage to avoid a ram attempt, the WARLOCK also has Power Grapnels positioned to broadside, with which it can grapple an adjacent enemy, should the WARLOCK miss her target. This is actually more effective, since it is easier for marines to cross over to an enemy ship across the side of the ship rather than the bow.
The principal weakness of the WARLOCK is her relative lack of armament. The WARLOCK is very lightly armed for her size and cannot afford to stand and engage in a gun battle. Her main armament also faces towards the rear, which is designed to discourage pursuit rather than to actually fight with. Because of this, the WARLOCK class often travels with escorts of a class such as the Skyfist, to act as fire support.
The FIST OF HARAAK is a fairly typical line-of-battle ship, with a blocky design that is fairly typical for the Sabaeus region, though it's cruciform pattern does show some influence by Oenotrian designs. She has a good speed, and a fairly typical ceiling, and a good amount of weaponry. This is a popular main battleship in the Meridani Sinus region.
The Fist of Haraak's main combat strategy is to maneuver so as to alternate which aspect it's enemy is in, from forward, where a barrage of four Heavies and two Rogues can engage an enemy vessel, to broadside, where five Heavies can be brought against an enemy. Since the Rogues can only fire every other round, it is more efficient to present a broadside facing when they are not able to fire.
In addition, the Fist of Haraak mounts Power Grapnels on either side, and can grapple and board an enemy vessel when convenient. She has a good marine compliment, though some vessels of similar size carry much more. Ideally the Fist of Haraak will be able to drop spikes on an enemy before boarding, and will also fire a salvo of grapeshot from it's Heavies in the same round as firing it's Power Grapnel.
The Fist of Haraak is a good all-purpose vessel, with few weaknesses. Its principal flaws are a lack of antipersonnel armament, such as Sweepers, though this is a minor point, and that it can engage enemies in it's rear facing with only three Heavies. Neither of these problems are critical, however, and the Fist of Haraak will most likely continue to be a workhorse of Sabaean and Meridani fleets for some time.
The SPARHAWK class screw galley is a fairly traditional design from the Hesperian region. With a broad-beamed look typical to the region, the Sparhawk Has a good weapons load, a large marine compliment, and is equipped with a ram.
While not as heavily armed as the Fist of Haraak, or other similar gunboat-style galleys, nevertheless the Sparhawk mounts a Lob Gun, which, though unreliable, can be potentially decisive. Both the Lob Gun and the Ram produce major weight limitations on the vessel, however, and the Sparhawk does suffer from a comparative lack of armament and a slow speed. S uccessful hit with the Lob Gun, however, should allow the Sparhawk to move in with it's ram, doing a devastating amount of Hull damage. Only larger vessels are capable of withstanding this attack.
The Sparhawk is a popular capital ship and/or flag vessel, in part because of it's roomy deck, which can hold many modifications. Frequently sumptuous admiral's quarters are added to the Sparhawk; these do not reduce the weight but do necessitate removing some of the Tether Mine positions.
Five examples currently exist:
The SWORD is a fearsome vessel to go up against; the ram alone does enormous damage, and if the Lob Gun is able to paralyze an enemy ship then basically that's game over even for a large vessel. The SWORD could probably hold even more armament, but this would likely result in a sacrifice in speed, and the SWORD's good speed make it highly useful in many battles where agility and maneuverability is important. Unlike many large vessels, the SWORD cannot simply be harried by small quick vessels.
The principal design flaw of the SWORD class (and it is a minor one) is that it's slow-reloading weapons are placed on corner turrets with wide arcs of fire, while the faster-reloading Heavies are placed in broadside gunports. Realistically, since a Rogue or Rod Gun can only fire every other round, such weapons ought to have been placed in the broadside gunports and the Heavies could have had the better arcs of fire. This would have allowed the Heavies to find targets more often, and the ship could maneuver into position when the Rogues and Rod Guns were ready to fire.
The MADRISOON is a commonly seen ship design in the Tossian Empire and surroundings. Basically a light and fast escort ship, the MADRISOON can be seen protecting merchant convoys throughout the Erythraeum basin.
The MADRISOON is a little to small to serve as a line-of-battle ship, but is sturdily built and well designed for it's role as a light brig. Occaisionally a large group of these ships are assembled to engage larger enemies, but this is usually as a stopgap measure. In an out-and-out battle, the MADRISOON does not do well on its own but functions well as a support vessel.
The MADRISOON is named for a legendary bard in the court of Seldon II, to whom many songs and poems are attributed. MADRISOON-class ships are generally named after legendary artists and poets of Mars' past.
The EMPEROR is a new vessel, constructed in 1888 in the Erythria Shipyards to be the Flagship of the Tossian Imperial Navy. Large by any standards, the EMPEROR has one of the largest weapon loads of any vessel. It takes advantage of Tossia's trading status with the United States to acquire surplus American naval weaponry, and it's primary armament is all imported from the USA.
This consists of a mixture of 68-pounders and 15" smoothbores, both of which are larger than most Martain cannons. A broadside from the EMPEROR can deliver up to 32 points of withering damage, more than most vessels can withstand.
The EMPEROR, however, is an enormously expensive vessel, and no more examples are planned. In fact, the construction of the EMPEROR and the comparable DOOMSDAY screw galleys have seriously taxed the Tossian Navy's operating budget. Nevertheless, vessels such as this pretty much guarantee that Tossia will be able to withstand any foreign navy on Mars. This expansion of the Tossian fleet has come largely as a reaction to Belgian expansionism, which worries most Martian city-states in the region. The Belgians, however, depend largely on their ground forces to win battles for them, and often underestimate the value of a strong Aerial force.