The Game: Space 1889: Red Sands (Pinnacle Entertainment Group/Studio 2 Publishing, 2010)
The System: Savage Worlds. Only the Core Rulebook is required for play.
The Appearance: My copy is the full-size (8.5”x11”) hardcover with 192 pages. Cover is very evocative of the Victorian-era theme with a line of British soldiers firing, a wounded soldier (officer?) being tended to by a lady showing a bit too much cleavage, and ironclad-like flyers in the background. Front- and end-pages are a three-face map of Mars. Interior pages have a cracked-mud background and are in brown and red tones. Layout is two-column. Illustrations are reflective of the setting.
The Setting: This is the Savage Worlds adaptation of the original Frank Chadwick/GDW and now Heliograph Victorian-era RPG. It is not a pure adaptation of H.G. Wells but rather a blending of several Victorian science-fiction authors into a “steampunk”-like setting in the solar system.
The Content: The back cover of this book states “…this book contains everything you need to play….” The book is actually two books in one; a 55-page player’s guide and a 130-page referee’s guide complete with index.
- The players section starts out with “Red Sands”, a four-page introduction to the setting.
- “Making Heroes” (12 pages) modifies the core rules and also adds setting-specific Edges and Hindrances as well as defining several races and hosting a listing of NPCs.
- “Possessions” (14 pages) is the ironmongery and ships/vehicles collection
- “Setting Rules” (22 pages) not only introduces new rules but also Weird Science, a ship construction ruleset, sand ship-to-ship combat
- “Gazetteer” (4 pages) lays out in very general terms the known locations in the solar system with a bit of an emphasis on Mars
- “Captain’s Secrets” (7 pages) is the first part of the referee’s section and lays out the major antagonists and revisits the Weird Science rules again
- “The Many Worlds” (12 pages) is an expanded gazetteer with more information and setting rules as well as links to later “Savage Tales” adventures
- “Red Sands” (36 pages) is “a grand adventure in serial form.” The 13 episodes are designed to take the players through the entire campaign.
- “Savage Tales” (44 pages) are short adventures that can be added to the grand campaign or can be used seperately
- “Allies & Enemies” (22 pages) is the bestiary and NPC collection
The Verdict: There is a reason Space 1889: Red Sands was nominated for a 2011Ennie Award for best setting. The use of the Savage Worlds (“Fast, Furious and Fun”) rules is a natural fit for Victorian science-fiction adventuring. The changes to the rules are not so onerous as to make the game hard to learn after the core rules have been learned. The changes are appropriate to the setting. The game can be played sandbox-like or with a programmed adventure. I like Pinnacle Entertainment products and this one does not disappoint. It certainly shows how a RPG setting for a universal game system should be done. Mongoose, are you listening?