It is the 19th Century…and in the southeast English county of Surrey, something unprecedented has occurred.
Somehow, the fabric of space-time has been torn, and now a shimmering portal through past, present, and future has emerged into London’s very backyard. Dubbed the Interstice, study of this mysterious portal has spurred a scientific revolution the likes of which the world has never before seen, and chief among the inventions that resulted is the Tellureon, a device that can capture and harness the essence of Time itself. With this device one may extend his lifespan into the hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of years…or cause his foes to shrivel up and die in a matter of seconds. Simply put, pure temporal energy is the most valuable resource ever known.
It was soon discovered that organic matter can absorb and store temporal energy – the older the matter, the better. Fossils become prized resources as a result; ammonites and trilobites are adopted as currency, and natural history museums with their vast collections become some of the world’s most powerful organizations practically overnight. Paleontology is no longer a scientific practice but a monetary one, and expeditions are sent all over the world in search of invaluable fossil beds.
In the deserts and badlands of America, the Bone Wars are well underway. On one side is the Cope Collective, led by its affluent founder Edward Drinker Cope; in this enlightened age, time is money and money is power, and Cope wants nothing more than power. With an army of steam-powered machines ranging from the fearsome brass-and-iron Saurotomaton to the nightmarish Elasmosaur Engine at his beck and call, if it is more power this mad genius wants, it is more power he’ll get. On the other side is the Othniellians, led by Othniel Charles Marsh, a brilliant and crazed paleontologist who has pioneered the arcane process of “saurogenesis”, allowing him to create dinosaurs from scratch or even modify living creatures, transforming them into half-saurian monstrosities. Like his rival Marsh too seeks power and prestige, and when these two titans of science collide…it may change the face of the world forever.
Meanwhile, on the Dark Continent, the Scramble for Africa has been delayed by the sudden emergence of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts from the continent’s sweltering tropical interior. Where – or when – they came from no one can quite say, but for the brave men and women of the Explorer’s Club they represent the ultimate adventure: the big game hunt of a lifetime.
In the shadow of all this lies the World’s Faire, a motley collection of thieves, mercenaries, bounty hunters, and assorted men-for-hire that use their skills to earn their next paycheck. Unscrupulous and uninterested in “the big picture”, the Faire is a diverse pool from which the Cope Collective, the Othniellians, and countless other groups have assembled their fighting forces.
“Sauriana: The Bone Wars” is a tabletop skirmish game and the soon-to-be flagship product of FossilPunk Foundry. Featuring dinosaurs, automatons, and other pulp themes in an alt-history 1800s setting, Sauriana is played with the use of 32mm miniatures, character cards, and other pieces. I’ll be honest right now and say that I personally have no interest in Sauriana as a game; I’m not the gaming type, nor do I have the time or skills to deal with building high-quality miniatures. I’m here for the lore, and from what I’ve seen so far…I absolutely love it.
People know me as being a stickler when it comes to accurate portrayals of prehistoric creatures in media. What they might not
know is that I have a soft spot for the old ways as well; when it comes to science our past should never be forgotten, for it shows us just how far we have come. For me paleontology is no different, so when something comes along that openly advertises itself as a “period piece”, I’m all for it.
Sauriana is inspired by the paleontological discoveries made in the 1800s and reflects both the knowledge and ways of thinking from that period; notable figures include the aforementioned Cope and Marsh, both of whom were real people engaged in a real “war” for fossil discoveries. The Bone Wars is an untapped area in the history of paleontology that I really think needs to be made more publicly known, and introducing it in the form of a tabletop game is a great and inventive way to do it. The creatures present in the game should be based on the science of the period as well, as the only dinosaur confirmed so far is the Laelaps
, and it is depicted as was the norm for the time period: big, scaly, tail-dragging, and terrifying. There is mention of T.rex but, as that animal was described in 1905, it’s likely just a first-draft oversight.
Being an alt-history 1800s setting, certain elements were bound to pop up. Steampunk is present in the Cope Collective’s mechanized soldiers, and atavisms and mutagenic serums are a big part of the Othniellian dogma, harking back to the tragic tales of Moreau and Jekyll; ostentatious big-game hunters in the vein of real-life characters like Teddy Roosevelt and Trader Horn (and including them, apparently) have flocked to Africa in search of time-displaced dinosaurs to hunt. As it was in the nineteenth century, the quest for scientific knowledge is a major aspect of the setting, as the realm of logic and facts pushes ever deeper into the uncharted realms of myth, superstition, and sorcery. All in all, I think FossilPunk Foundry has really captured something unique here, something that no other tabletop game or dinosaur-related media has done, and I believe that it is something that, if nurtured properly, could make them very, very popular.
Unlikely as it would be, I think FossilPunk should call up the guys over at Antediluvian Miniatures and see if they can get something going; AM have a series of Victorian-inspired dinosaur miniatures but no setting to house them. Let’s see some collaboration!
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