Thursday 12 November 2020

Battle of Xanthe

Canal Martian riders, supported by French lacers on gashants

This week saw our first foray into battling with our new Space 1889 forces: the Battle of Xanthe!

After a number of Hill martian raids on trade caravans, the Canal forces of Ideaus Fons (supported by their French sponsors) set forth on a punitive expedition. At dawn on the third day, the Hill Martian tribes mounted an assault upon the French encampment at the Xanthe liftwood grove...

Hill Martian Gashant riders emerge...

Hill Martian skirmishers advance ahead of their larger cousins (who doesn't want Tharks on Mars??)

French Foreign Legion and Martian Tirailleurs form up to receive the assault

We used The Men Who Would Be Kings as our tactial rules. They worked pretty well, though we have drafted a few house rules for to suit the setting and will trial them next game. If they work well, I'll publish them here.

Lancers charge home into the Thark flank

But another mass of the Green devils tore into the Legion!

Mounts spent and surrounded by hill Martian infantry, the gallant Lancers fell.

On the left flank, the bellowing clash of gashants was deafening

As the battle reached a crescendo, the hill Martian infantry crashed home into the French line

Thunderous volleys of Lebel 1886 pattern rifles took down many a brave hill Martian!

Well armed with courage though they were, the Hill Martians were unable to carry the day

And so the French returned to their base at Ideaus Fons having consolidated their grip on the Xanthe Chryse region, and planned their next expedition to expand their sphere of influence.

A great day pushing the new lead around - the table looked great and plans are afoot for a bigger game next time!

Tuesday 10 November 2020

The French On Mars (Space 1889 Background)

by James L. Cambias

Originally published in issue 7 of Transactions of the Royal Martian Geographical Society, now available here


The French have always considered their nation to be the fountainhead of civilization in Europe. During the colonial period, they believed that France had a mission to spread that civilization across the Earth. In the world of Space: 1889, the French would inevitably feel it necessary to bring civilization to Mars, whether the Martians want it or not.

Idaeus Fons

The center of French influence on the Red Planet is the city-state of Idaeus Fons, located in the highlands west of the Mare Acidalium.

Idaeus's population is about 80,000 Martians, with a resident Terran population of 4000. Ninety percent of the Terrans in Idaeus are French citizens (the remainder are mostly Americans and Italians). The city is located on the Grand Canal which links the Mare Acidalium with the Coprates Valley. The area around the city is arid and rough. Even along the canals the farmland is marginal. The climate is generally cool, similar to that of the Canadian Rockies.

Despite the terrain and climate, the city is prosperous. Its economy is based on the canal trade and on metal production. The rugged hills surrounding Idaeus hold some of the richest deposits of copper and lead on Mars. For thousands of years the smithies of Idaeus have produced copper pots and bowls, bronze tools, and cannon for export to the Acidalium cities and the Coprates Valley.

Slavery was common in Idaeus until the arrival of the French. Slaves worked the metal mines and rowed the canal boats. The French abolished the slave trade and decreed that the children of slaves would be free, but did not liberate those who were already enslaved. Nowadays, the slave population in Idaeus is dwindling, and mostly consists of household servants.

The language of Idaeus Fons is Thark, but a substantial proportion of the population especially the upper classes speak Na-Gaaryani. The most common Terran language is French.

The Surrounding Region

The rugged area surrounding Idaeus Fons is sparsely settled. A few farms exist along the canals, but the chief occupation is herding.

The mines of Idaeus have been worked for millennia. The hills and mountains of the region are honeycombed with ancient tunnels and galleries. Many of these ancient mines have not been mapped in recent memory. Brigands and fugitives often seek refuge in the mines, and tales tell of horrible creatures dwelling underground.

The area around Idaeus is home to the Drukhma plant, an extremely dangerous carnivorous plant armed with poisonous thorns. From time to time Martians have been killed by this plant, but Terrans usually suffer only a painful allergic reaction to the toxin.

French Control In Idaeus

The French presence in the Idaeus region dates back to 1873. The first French scientific expedition to Mars, led by Dr. Claude Massigny, landed near the city and established friendly relations with King Lotmar, the ruler of Idaeus Fons.

More scientists followed, accompanied by merchants, missionaries, and explorers. By 1875 nearly four hundred Frenchmen were living in Idaeus. But anti-Terran sentiment was already growing in the population, particularly among the nobility and the priests.

Riots broke out in July of 1877, when a mob of Martians attacked a Bastille Day celebration. Six Frenchmen died in the fighting, and much property was damaged. The French Consul demanded a full apology and reparations from the King. When he refused, the French declared war. Five regiments landed in November of 1877, and shattered the city's army in three battles.

The French compelled King Lotmar to step down in favor of his nephew Akvan. Several nobles were imprisoned, and their lands were turned over to the French government as compensation. In 1878 King Akvan signed a treaty accepting French military protection and guidance in foreign affairs. Separate courts for French citizens were set up, and a reduced tariff was set for goods brought in on French ether flyers.

Ambitious French officers seeking victories as the quickest route to promotion conducted extensive campaigns on the frontier. Independent towns were forced to recognize the sovereignty of Idaeus, and Hill Martian tribes were subjugated or forced out. French columns pushed as far as the rim of the Mare Acidalium in the east, the Tempe mountains to the north, and several hundred miles across the deserts to in the south and west.

The inhabitants of Idaeus Fons have an ambivalent attitude toward the French. On one hand, the memories of the war of 1877 and the humiliating treaty are bitter, and recent immigrants from the Coprates tell horrifying tales. On the other hand, the city has prospered economically due to trade with the French, the bureaucracy has been purged of corruption, and patrols have nearly eliminated banditry in the surrounding hills. The priests and what remains of the aristocracy are more fervently anti-Terran than ever, but the merchants and the military leaders have a growing respect for the aliens.

The French In Idaeus Today

Since 1877, the French presence in Idaeus Fons has grown dramatically. French firms hold important business concessions a French company now runs a steamship line to Nilokeras, and another owns the largest lead mine in the area.

The scientific endeavors that initiated French involvement on Mars are still going on. The Republic has established an Institut Martien des Sciences in Idaeus Fons. The Institut occupies a large building, formerly the palace of a noble family. Laboratories study Martian weather, animals, plants, and minerals; as well as the culture and prehistory of the Martians. The Institut sends expeditions ranging far over the surface of Mars, and is generous in its sponsorship of independent explorers.

Where Frenchmen go, wine follows. Ten years ago a group of vintners purchased a tract of land in the hills south of the city, and began trying to raise grapes. After a few years spent experimenting with various root stocks and fertilizers, the first bottles of Maison Zoraad became commercially available. The wine has become quite popular in Idaeus and elsewhere on Mars. Some other wineries have begun operation in recent years, to keep up with the demand.


Technically, the city of Idaeus Fons is still an independent state, ruled by King Akvan. The only formal tie with France is a treaty of alliance and a guarantee of protection for French citizens. In practice, though, the city is run by General Pierre Saint-Honoré, the commander of the French garrison. In addition to his French military rank, Saint-Honoré also holds the title of "High Warlord" of Idaeus, making him second in command after the King.

King Akvan is thoroughly under the General's thumb, and all his edicts are drafted in Saint-Honoré's office. The various government ministries of Idaeus Fons have all been stocked with French officials, who answer to the General. The offices function honestly (though with the usual French bureaucratic fussiness and sloth). The only part of the government free from French influence is the law-courts. The Martian judges have complete jurisdiction over all the Martian inhabitants of Idaeus Fons, and the French do not interfere with them. A separate French court decides cases involving Terrans.

Military Forces

The French currently have eight regiments based in Idaeus Fons, plus the city's own army, which is effectively under French command. The French units are the 2nd Foreign Legion Infantry, the 3rd Marine Infantry, the 79th, 81st and 114th Infantry Regiments, the 1st Foreign Legion Cavalry, the 6th Hussars, the Composite Regiment of Spahis, and five artillery batteries (one horse artillery battery armed with 9-pounders, two mountain batteries armed with 6-pounders, a field battery with 15-pounders, and a heavy battery with 6" howitzers).

The Idaeus Army is of Poor quality, and has thirteen bands of infantry armed with muskets, eight bands of cavalry, and twenty cannon. General Saint-Honoré has organized one Good-quality infantry regiment along European lines, with 180 men armed with modern rifles and four field guns. All the officers are French.

The Marines, the 79th Infantry, and the 81st Infantry are based in the city, along with the modern-style Martian regiment and six infantry bands. The remaining French units and the rest of the Idaeus army are based in frontier posts. The French regiments are broken up into separate battalions, and are paired with one or two Martian bands. No Martian units are free of Terran supervision.

Despite their impressive force of ground troops, the French have been handicapped by a lack of aerial vessels. Although the mountains north of Idaeus Fons have plentiful liftwood groves, the city has no shipyard. All of the city's cloudships were bought from Acidalia or Niliacus. At one point, funds were allocated to have a pair of Harpon-class aerial gunboats constructed at Syrtis Major, but since the outbreak of the Oenotrian War, the British have been using the Syrtis yards at full capacity for their own fleet.

Currently, the French operate the old Idaeus Fons cloudship fleet, and have rearmed a few vessels with modern guns. The King still has the Royal Yacht (an unarmed Clearsight screw galley). The fleet consists of two Hullcutter screw galleys, a Whisperdeath kite, a Sky Runner galley armed with a 3" gun and two 6-pounder Hotchkiss cannons, a Bloodrunner kite armed with 6-pounder HRCs, and two Swiftwood kites, one of which has been rearmed with a 4" short gun and two 3-pounder HRCs. The fleet is Trained quality. All marines are drawn from the French 3rd Marine Infantry; they are Experienced troops armed with modern rifles.

French Influence Outside Idaeus

While Idaeus Fons is the only city under French political contril, most of the surrounding cities have small groups of French merchants. Many have signed treaties of friendship with France, and the rulers take great pains to avoid outbreaks of anti-Terran violence that might provoke a military response.

Acidalia: The French presence in Acidalia is growing. There are numerous French merchants, and plans are afoot to have officers in the army trained by the French. Both the government and the inhabitants of Acidalia are friendly towards France.

Chryse: Prince Tarkrakar of Chryse has tried to steer a course that will enrich himself and his city. He has welcomed French assistance in building a highly efficient army, and dreams of conquering Niliacus with French help. He is trying to balance the French against the Tossians and so retain his autonomy. Tarkrakar has worked on developing his military, and in doing so has neglected the administration and economy of his city.

Nilokeras: Osuuva, the Potentate of Nilokeras, is decadent and incompetent. Under his rule the city's economy, government, and military have all declined to an abysmal level. French influence here is strong, and the terrible state of the city's military has made it a virtual French protectorate. The government is very unstable only French subsidies and support keep it afloat.

Niliacus: Prince Dardag of Niliacus is a weak ruler dominated by the priests of the city. High Priest Aaverdigon recently became Prime Minister. Niliacus has the nearest and largest shipyard available to Idaeus Fons, and the French have worked very hard to woo the prince. The priests are very intolerant of dissent and heresy, and require all human visitors to remain in the Foreign Quarter of the city at all times.

There is a small French presence in Niliacus, which the government tolerates only due to fear of possible intervention. A small faction of military and mercantile interests wish to see the city modernized, but they are still very much a minority.

Relations With Other Colonial Powers

The Belgians: The French attitude toward the Belgians on Mars is compounded equally of patronization, envy, and exasperation. The French have always viewed Belgium as a kind of detached province of France, and so tend to view Belgian colonial activities as an extension of their own. Certainly Frenchmen make up the largest contingent of foreigners in the Coprates.

At the same time, French commanders and officials on Mars are terribly jealous of the support given to Belgian colonial activities by the government on Earth. They compare it with the unhelpful attitude of their own government. French forces on Mars dwarf the Belgian army in the Coprates, and with enough backing they could have annexed the entire Mare Acidalium by now.

Finally, the French are profoundly irritated by the clumsy and barbaric methods used by the Belgian Coprates Company. (It isn't the barbarity itself that annoys them so much as unnecessary barbarism). The Belgians make all the other Terrans look bad. The thought has occasionally been expressed that the Coprates might be run better by some other power... France, perhaps.

The Americans: Growing American influence centered at Thymiamata has led to conflicts between French and American commercial interests in Chryse and Niliacus. This is not very serious, however, since the eyes of the French are mostly turned towards the Mare Acidalium region, while the Americans are more interested in the Tossian Empire. Relations between the two nations are good, and this is reflected by cooperation among French and American officials on Mars, especially concerning the extradition of criminals, suppression of piracy, and efforts to control anti-Terran agitation.

The Germans: Since 1871 French relations with Germany have been uniformly bad. On Mars, what little contact the two nations have has been chilly, but officially polite. Both sides have set up spy networks in the other's sphere of influence, and both work to undermine the other's colonial efforts. Several times the French have sent anonymous tips to the British about German operations in the Boreosyrtis cities. The Germans have been quietly expanding their presence in the Mare Acidalium, and have made friendly overtures towards cities that might have cause to fear the French.

The British: French relations with Britain are currently at their lowest ebb since Waterloo. This is curious, since both countries are concerned about growing German power. But colonial rivalries in Africa and Southeast Asia have caused a deep rift between the two governments, and centuries of habit are hard to break.

On Mars, French and British interests do not directly compete, since their respective spheres of influence are far apart. But there is still no love lost between them. French arms merchants have been active in Shastapsh, and there has been talk of French-made rifles being found in Oenotrian hands.

The French government depends heavily on the British heliograph system for rapid communication, and cannot build any gunboats on Mars without British cooperation all of which is intolerable to French pride.

Conflict between the two is mostly at the level of continual minor annoyances on both sides. The fact is that there is really a great deal of common interest in their colonial activities, but a potentially fruitful cooperation has been poisoned by bad feeling.

Idaeus Fons: The Tricolor Over Mars

By Michael Sangemino

James L. Cambias' article "The French on Mars" is an informative description of France's colonial presence on Mars. This article provides additional detail about the major city of the French colony, Idaeus Fons.

The seat of the French power on Mars rests in the city-state of Idaeus Fons. At one time an isolated provincial town, Idaeus Fons is now touched by the civilizing mission of France. The city streets smell of French bread and wine,  Idaeus Fons has become the center of European culture on Mars, and a vacation site of many homesick Terran colonists.

City Statistics

Population: 80,000 (plus 4,000 humans)
Government: Weak Prince
Corruption: Honest
Economy: Mercantile
Vitality: Wealthy
Army: Poor*
Army Size: 21
Fleet Quality: Trained
Fleet Size: 320,000 pounds
Attitude: Indifferent
Colonial Army: Good
Colonial Army Size: 1
Colonial Army Loyalty: Indifferent

Important Sections Of The City

<>Refer to the Idaeus Fons Map to locate the areas discussed below.

The French Quarter: The French who reside in Idaeus Fons live within the French Quarter. Lying just outside outside the city-state's walls, the French Quarter streets are lined with architecture resembling the very finest of Paris. It has an atmosphere of refinement and Gallic snobbery.

The land upon which the Quarter is located was originally land owned by nobles who opposed French control and reluctantly turned it over as compensation for their opposition. Surrounding the Quarter are beautiful vineyards growing grapes for the popular Maison Zoraad wine. The Quarter is home to most of the high French military and administrative officials. It is also home to French businessman and ambassadors from the other colonial powers.

The Quarter is divided by the Rue de Paris which is lined by fine restaurants specializing in French Cuisine and taverns serving Terran spirits. The heart of the Quarter is the Palace de Republique, a beautiful theater and home to the many touring companies of Can-Can dancers and ballet dancers from France.

The Quarter is considered the focal point for human culture on the Mars. Many a day one can stroll along the canal and see painters creating beautiful depiction's of everyday colonial life. Most government officials dream be sent to Idaeus Fons to sample the local charm and the French wine! The Quarter is considered off limits to Martians with the exception of domestic workers.

Palace: The Palace is a walled area within the city. Before the French established control of Idaeus Fons, this area was home to the city-state's noble family and the seat of government. The buildings within the Palace sector rise above the rest of the city. The large Palace of Kazan was the home of King Lotmar. After the signing of the Treaty of Idaeus Fons in 1877, the newly installed King Akvan was moved from the large palace and is presently residing in the smaller residence originally designated for servants.

The Kazan Palace has been turned over to the Institut Martian des Sciences. The Palace is now filled with laboratories dedicated to the study of the Mars.

The Church of St. Michele can also be found within the Palace sector. Formerly a Temple dedicated to the goddess Marhardroxx, the Church is now the home to the Roman Catholic Bishop Mailard. The Bishop sees Mars as a new opportunity to convert polythestic Martians and has sent missionaries throughout Mars.

The most important building in the area is the old military headquarters of Idaeus Fons. It is now the home to General Saint-Honore who officially is adviser to the King but in reality is the ruler of the colony.

The military presence in the Palace sector is the Royal Guard, which is housed in the new palace and protects the King. They are generally experienced troops. Also occupying the Palace sector is a battalion of French soldiers from the 79th Infantry Regiment.

Old City: This is a dense populated area known for its filth and crime. Visitors to Idaeus Fons are warned against venturing into the Old City. The section is filled with brothels and gambling halls. The Old City is a good area to buy illegal goods, and is a breeding ground for anti-human resentment.

The military presence in this area is primarily the responsibility of the newly formed Colonial troops.

Landing Field: This is the only facility for aerial traffic. It serves as the base of the French-operated Idaeus Fons cloudship fleet. Within the landing area there is usually a company of the French 3rd Marine Infantry. Adjoining the Landing Field is Fort Defence which overlooks the French Quarter and houses the French 3rd Marine Infantry.

Bazaar: The Bazaar is the hub of commercial activity in the city. Usually open seven days a week, the French have recently prodded King Akvan to close the bazaar on Sundays out of respect of Terran religious beliefs. This has angered many Martians who feel furthered humiliated by their human rulers. This humiliation is alleviated by the presence of more and cheaper material goods due to the France's effective administration and protection.

Business District: North of the Bazaar is the Business District. The Business District is the home to most of the offices of French companies, and also the embassies of foreign powers. In particular, this section houses the office of The Societe de Ether which is one of the primary concessions in the city. Societe has exclusive control of all interplanetary travel between France and Idaeus Fons. It also runs a steamship line that transports goods to Acidalium.

The Business District is home to a number of French Schools and many of the city's Nobles send their children there. Overlooking the Business District is the Fort Republique which houses the 79th infantry and a heavy battery of 6" howitzers.

High Docks: This large open area of the city is busy day and night with sailing and steam ships transporting goods in and out of Acidalium. The port facilities are controlled by French concessions. Nearby, the Customs House, which looms over the docks, protects French interests by taxing heavily all non-French concerns therefore insuring French economic hegemony over the city.

Also nearby is Fort France, which houses the city prison. Many nobles and priests who opposed French control in 1877 are now imprisoned here. The 81st infantry controls this area.


General Saint-Honore

The head of all French forces on Mars, General Saint-Honore is convinced of the importance of the civilizing mission of France. Therefore, in his opinion, France must have colonies! Unfortunately, many in France disagree with him. Saint-Honore is a veteran infantry officer of the Tunisian campaign. A masterful military tactician and a skilled politician, Saint-Honore must deal with a uninterested Parliament, recalcitrant Quai d' Orsay and a stingy Ministry of Marine. French troops have conquered a large amount of territory in the region but Saint-Honore still begs France for more troops and money.

The General's dealings with King Akvan are mostly cordial. However, the General is suspicions of the King and at times will diplomatically inform his majesty of who is in charge. Saint-Honore demands discipline from his officers and troops. He will, however, look the other way if he suspects an ambitious young officer is attempting to spread French influence in another region of Mars.

Presently, Saint-Honore sees himself as France's only hope to thwart German and British designs upon the entire planet. Relations between the General and the King have become tense because of Saint-Honore desire to use Royal troops as part of an expansion into Acidalium. In Saint- Honore's mind, as the importance of liftwood increases, France will become more interested in her colony on Mars.

King Akvan

Installed as King of Idaeus Fons after the Treaty of 1877, replacing his defeated Uncle King Lotmar, King Akvan is seen by the general populace as merely a puppet controlled by the French. For the most part this is true, but Akvan reflects much of the ambivalence that the people share toward their new rulers. On one hand, he is humiliated at how the French have taken control of the city's economy and are attempting to impose their religion upon the populace. On the other hand, King Akvan is spoiled by the increased wealth brought by French protection. He is known to spend many hours drinking and entertaining with many of the court's beautiful maidens, but in reality this is a facade. Akvad spends much of his time trying to gain greater independence from the French while not raising their ire.

Recently, things have become increasingly strained, due to General Saint-Honore's desire to use Royal troops on a expedition into Acidalium. Rumor has it that King Akvan's cousin Prince Gorgaxx has converted to Christianity and is a likely candidate to replace the King. King Akvan need only visit the tomb of his dead uncle King Lothar to see the results of disagreeing with the French.

Friday 6 November 2020

Et Voila! Mon Armee de'Mars!

Mesdames et Messieurs, en presentat ma premier Armee de Mars!

Tirailleurs Martiens;

La Legion Etrangere:

Ready for an expeditionary operation in the Ideaus Fons basin where the Nomadic Hill tribes have been ambushing caravans from the northern valley viticulture district.

Very happy with these- finishing off four units in 4 weeks in some kind of record for me. After about of decade of mulling and planning, it's great to be off and running. I do work well to a deadline it seems!

Modelling notes re basing: Wood filler basecoated in GW Doombull Brown, heavy drybrush GW Jokaero Orange, final drybrush GW Lugganath Orange

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!