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Sky Galleons of . . . Venus?!

Dirigible Battles Using the Sky Galleons of Mars Rules

by James L. Cambias

On Venus, the imperial powers have begun using dirigibles, and colonial ambitions inevitably create conflict. Dirigible battles can be fought using Sky Galleons of Mars with a few minor changes.

Ithuriel vs. Russian Aerostats. Artwork by Fred T. Jane from Angel of the Revolution by George Griffith

Airship Design

Rules for hydrogen dirigible design are given in Ironclads and Ether Flyers, and are very similar to the Sky Galleons shipbuilding system. The difference is the hydrogen gasbag. Hydrogen can only be used to create vessels of 200 or fewer tons (the Zeppelin works in Germany can build airships up to 1000 tons). A gasbag costs £5000 per hull size number. Rams may not be used.

Propulsion follows the Sky Galleons rules, but petrol-burning engines are favored. In determining engine size it is useful to employ fractional hull sizes. A 150-ton dirigible would count as hull size 1 1/2, and consequently would need an engine of 15 tons to drive it at speed 6. Fuel consumption should also be worked out to fractional values. In combat, however, hull size is rounded down to the nearest whole number, so a 150-ton ship has Hull Size 1.

Armament follows the standard rules, but liftwood devices such as Tether Mines or Smutts Torpedoes do not exist. Drogue Torpedoes and Spike Droppers may be used normally. Incendiary devices are out of the question.

Airship Combat

There are few differences between airship combat and the Sky Galleons rules. Because a gasbag is so easily punctured, all shells pass through the envelope without detonating, so all Hull hits inflict only 1 point of damage. Fires automatically destroy hydrogen airships. If one catches fire at Low or Very Low altitude, the crew may try to ride the flaming wreckage to a safe landing. Each crewman who rolls a 6 on one die survives; the remainder perish.

The damage rules for targets at different altitudes are reversed for airships, since the bulk of the hull is above the crew compartment the reverse of the usual arrangement for liftwood flyers. If one fires at a dirigible at a lower altitude, then all Crew hits count as Hull hits. If one fires at a target which is at a higher altitude, then all hits are resolved normally on the damage table.

Airships In Use On Venus

German Zeppelin Gunboat

Though flimsy compared with gunboats on Mars and Earth, the Zeppelin is a veritable battleship on Venus. The armament is chiefly for use against dinosaurs and Lizardmen. The German air fleet on Venus includes four such vessels, the L ("Luftschiff") -16, L-19, L-20, and L-24.

The gunboat is a hydrogen-filled Zeppelin, hull size 2, with an oil-fired steam engine of size 2 and a 40-day petrol supply. The ship is armed with a 6-pounder Hotchkiss forward, three 1-pounder HRCs sides and aft, and two Nordenfelts broadside. It has room for 8 passengers and 31 tons of cargo. The Zeppelin costs £13,060. It can reach Very High altitude and has a speed of 6.

Italian Dirigible

The Italians have pioneered the semi-rigid dirigible, of which this is a good example. It has a rigid keel along the base of the gasbag to which the engines and gondola are attached. It is a multipurpose patrol craft, not a warship. There is currently one such ship on Venus, the Umberto.

The Umberto is a hydrogen-lift airship of 150 tons; the Hull Size is 1 1/2. It has an oil-fired steam engine and 30 tons of fuel (enough for 40 days). It is armed with two 1-lb. HRCs at the bow, one aft, and two wing-mount Nordenfelts. It has space for 20 tons of cargo and 8 passengers. The ship can reach Very High altitude, has a Speed of 6, and costs £9,840.

Italian Patrol Blimp

This smaller craft is a nonrigid blimp; it is cheap and fast. The Italians presently operate two blimps, the Roma and the Venezia.

The blimp is Hull Size 1, with a total weight of 83 tons. It has an oil-fired engine and carries 20 tons of oil (burning 1/2 ton per day). The blimp mounts a 1-lb. HRC forward and has 3 Nordenfelts mounted in the wings and aft. It can carry 13 tons of cargo and 6 passengers. The ship can reach Very High altitude, has a Speed of 6, and costs £6580.

British Royal Navy Airship

The British have had difficulty translating their expertise in liftwood flyer design to dirigibles. This blimp is essentially a copy of an Italian design, but with heavier armament to offset German power. The British have three blimps in their colony, the NA.3 ("Naval Airship"), NA.5, and NA.6.

The blimp is Hull Size 1, weighing 83 tons. It has an oil-fired engine with 20 tons of fuel (burns 1/2 ton each day). Armament consists of one 6-lb. HRC forward, one 1-lb. HRC aft, and two Nordenfelts in wing mounts. The blimp carries 10 tons of cargo, and has space for 3 passengers. Maximum altitude is Very High; speed is 6; cost is £6640.

Russian Army Blimp

The Russian blimp sacrifices speed and altitude for armament and carrying capacity. It can transport two squads of troops to a trouble spot and provide fire support, or carry vital cargo. The Russians currently have two blimps, the Alexander and the St. Petersburg.

The Russian blimp is of Hull Size 1, weighing 100 tons. It has an oil-fired engine of size 1/2, and 10 tons of fuel. The armament consists of three 1-lb. HRCs at the bow and wings; and a single Nordenfelt aft. The blimp has a 12-ton cargo hold and space for 15 passengers. It can reach High altitude, and has a top speed of 3. Cost: £6320.

Scenario 1: Lines On A Map

In the spring of 1888, the Zeppelin L-19 was sent to survey the Venusian Alps northwest of the Italian colony. The Italian governor got word of the mission, and feared the Germans were trying to secure a colonial claim in Italian territory. The newly-completed Umberto and a patrol blimp were sent to chase away the L-19 and protect Italy's rights to the area.

Rules: Use the mountain map from Sky Galleons of Mars. The contour lines mark different altitude levels. The Germans start at any height in the center of the map; the Italians enter from one side at any altitude.

Victory: The Italians win if the German ship is destroyed or forced to leave the map. The Germans win if they withstand the Italian attack.

Scenario 2: Hearts and Minds

In August 1889, Russian and Italian blimps were sent to establish relations with the coastal tribes north of the Hestia Highlands. Both states hoped to overawe the natives with their flying ships. The two blimps arrived within a week of each other, and the captains began shooting at one another shortly thereafter.

Rules: Each side gets one blimp. The desert map is used, ignoring surface features. The two ships enter from opposite sides of the map at any altitude.

Victory: The victor must destroy his enemy and still be able to return home. To return home an airship must have a working screw and rudder, and must be able to reach Low altitude.

Scenario 3: Victory At Sea

William Sigerson, a British spy in the Italian colony, was discovered and had to flee. With the help of sympathetic Lizardmen, he reached the coast and sailed toward British territory. Sigerson was pursued by the Umberto. In mid-ocean, however, a British blimp arrived just as the Italians began to attack the raft.

Rules: The British get a blimp; the Italians get the Umberto. Either map is used, ignoring surface features. A marker in the center of the map represents the raft, which moves 1 hex toward the right-hand edge each turn. The Italians start within 4 hexes of the raft at Medium or higher altitude; the British enter one side of the map at any altitude.

Victory: The British win if they can finish one turn at ground altitude on the raft (to pick up Sigerson) and leave the map, or else destroy the Umberto. The Italians win if they sink the raft before Sigerson is rescued, or destroy the blimp. To sink the raft, the Italians must score a total of 30 hits on it.

Scenario 4: A Scientific Debate

The feud between Kaptanleutnant Freitag of the L-19 and Lieutenant MacRoss of the NA.5 began because both were amateur naturalists. MacRoss repeatedly beat Freitag into publication with descriptions of Venusian flora and fauna. Freitag claimed plagiarism. When the L-19 encountered the NA.5 over German territory, Freitag decided to end the feud once and for all.

Rules: Use the desert map. The contour lines mark different altitude levels. The British get a blimp; the Germans get a Zeppelin. The NA.5 begins at any altitude in the center of the map; the L-19 enters at Very High altitude from the right-hand edge. The German player automatically gets the initiative on the first turn.

Victory: The British player must escape off the left-hand edge of the map, or destroy the L-19. The German player wins if the captain of the NA.5 is killed.

Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:50:52 EDT

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