Saturday, August 18, 2012

Men are from Mars

I went down to The Game Matrix in Tacoma today to play in the semi-annual Red Captains Martian gaming event. There are several gamers down there who have invested a lot of time, money, and creativity to gaming Victorian sci-fi with a variant of Frank Chadwick's Space: 1889. Kevin Smyth has recorded many of these adventures on his blog The Shastapsh Chronicles.

The games are typically a clash between colonialist Earth forces and Martians. Today's game was a Martian civil war scenario where rebels and imperial forces clashed over a supply of lift wood that was being harvested by an enterprising band of Americans who were holed up in a stone building while Martians swarmed around them.

Lift wood: what all the fuss was about
Every player had one Martian legion, which consisted of 21 figures: A leader, three shield-gunners, and about a 50/50 mix of musketeers and "cutters," (i.e., martians with nasty, two-hand cutting weapons). In addition, every player got to pick a second unit from from a pool that included a variety of specialist types: banded riflemen, lancers on gashants, flying High Martians (very nasty), and fanatical savage types. All of these have names, of course. I just don't remember them.

Herbie's High Martians of doom flying above it all
Gary Greiss, Mark Waddington, Dale Mickel, Al Rivers, and I were the imperial forces. Herbie Fairbanks, Scott Murphy, Steve Ghan, Gene Anderson, and Bruce Meyer were the rebel scum. Early action took place on the imperial right wing as Bruce and Steve charged in against Dale and Al. In a great scrum involving legion troops, flying Martians, and gashant riders, we got the worst of it and things went downhill from there.

The great scrum of war
In the center, I had my legion and some gashant riders fighting around the outskirts of the stone building where the Americans were taking alarmingly effective pot-shots at any Martian in range. After beating up some hill Martians, who had the dismaying habit of not running away no matter what hit them, I got stuck in with a fresh rebel legion and saw my legion rout. I ran my gashant riders into Gene's victorious rebel legion, along with Mark's red Martian wild things, and sent it packing.

My legion getting into close range of the rebel hill Martians
My gashant riders coming into the fray against the hill Martians
Gary's legions and Mark's legion, which had been moving slowly along so far, were now making their presence felt on the rebel right. However, our right had ceased to exist. Al's red Martian wild thing leader was holding off an entire rebel legion and Dale's two remaining flying Martians were chasing down some of Bruce's routing gashant riders. When the red wild thing leader finally went down, there were three rebel legions, rebel flying Martians, rebel gashant riders, and rebel banded riflemen all coming down on us.

Committing the last imperial reserve
After about three hours of gaming, we called it a rebel win.

Like a boss: Al's red Martian wilds things leader holding off a rebel legion
It's a fun game. This is the second time, I think, that I've played these rules. Because it was Martian against Martian, we didn't have any of the exotic things like steam cavalry and mechanical monstrosities bristling with cannon and gatling guns. Martians are a low-tech people in the Space: 1889 world. Like the various non-European armies that fought in the historical colonial wars, the Martians have courage and determination but little more. The European/Earthling armies have all the toys. It's classic science vs. pluck and pluck rarely succeeds—except in games like today's where it was pluck vs. pluck, so pluck was bound to win.

The figures were mostly from Kevin, Mark, Herbie, and Scott.


  1. Nice game and photos, David. I've played that game a couple of times (still a TSATF novice, though). I like how they change the scenario around enough to always keep it fresh. Best, Dean

  2. Dave,

    Local guy! I'm in Edmonds.

    Didn't realize there were any VSF players in the area.

    Unfortunately all my stuff (what there is) is in 15mm or smaller.


  3. David, Scott Murphy also had some troops on the table: a unit of lancers and a couple of legions including those blue guys that kept picking on the Americans in the house.