"Fighting Eagles"

"Fighting Eagles" Air to Air Combat During World War 1 A Game Review
RFC RE-8 over the Western Front, ©Pat Speirs, used with his permission. Available from Fine Art America.

The Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 was a British two-seat biplane reconnaissance and bomber aircraft of the First World War designed at the Royal Aircraft Factory. Used between 1916 to 1918.

"Fighting Eagles" by High Flying Dice, LLC, is designed by Paul Rohrbaugh and  graphics by Bruce Yearian, 2011-2018.

Lt Frank Luke
Up for review is "Fighting Eagles", an introductory level WW1 Air Warfare game from High Flying Dice Games. Though simple, it comes thru with realism and more fun than 90% of the WW1 air games ever made. And yes, I have most of them, and they are generally a rules fest - not fun at all, and where the rule book is thicker than most law books.

This game is completely opposite - simple, with only 1 and 1/2 pages of rules, and another 1 and 1/2 pages consisting of the four scenarios and how to read the aircraft counters and movement chart.
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Fighting Eagles has a low amount of counters to move about and it does include AA, balloons, bombers, and of course the rickety aircraft made of wood, bailing wire and cloth. 1917 to 1918 was the time when the aircraft finally began to be built strong, fast, and deadlier.

About the only thing missing is the smell and breathing of castor oil (yes, that same old castor oil Mom may have given you to get you regular) that was used for lubricating the engines of these aircraft (aka "acft"). Now, imagine what effect on your body would be by breathing that in while flying for the 2 or 3 hours on a typical mission? Yeah... it happen.

First Impressions - The game comes with 78 *unmounted front and back counters for a total of 39 actual double sided counters, a game map, all on an 11"x17" card stock sheet (The actual game play map is 8.5"x11") and separate rules plus a 1/3 of a page errata addenda sheet. (I emphasize that one should make the corrections from the addenda sheet to the rules before starting the game.)

Also, one of the pieces of errata is for the Fighting Eagles Card Deck and it is just an explanation of that particular deck.

Game Map - That this is one good looking game map that I have seen in a very long time is an understatement. Since the air combat was mostly was over "no man's land", it was a pretty ugly and dismal looking, area. The game map is 64 squares (8 x 8 square grid) and is used to regulate movement. The line pattern you see are trenches (one side or the other, not both as the trenches are all joined).

Looking at the game map and finding this actual aerial photo, they look almost identical. I would bet a copy of this game that the game map was based on this aerial photo.

Counters- The counters are about an inch big and are very nice. Showing a top down view of the aircraft. When flipped over for damage, there is a flame along the plane and a reduction of the Action Factor and Defense. The observation balloons are side views. There are eight fighters, one bomber, and one balloon for each side. Plus eighteen other informational counters, used by both players. This includes the turn counter, a sun counter and a wind direction indicator (both important). The game map has a turn track on it and a combat die roll modifier table (remember to use ALL that applies) in addition to showing how to read an aircraft counter. 

You might want to purchase an extra counter sheet to have on hand to replace that any counters you might lose. I am glad I did, as I did lose the British bomber. Probably shot down while I wasn't looking. Usual cost is $1 to $2.

*note - don't forget Paul does offer a mounting service for all his games that have unmounted counters. it is low cost and per counter sheet for the mounting of counters. Worth while.

By now, you should have notice that the turn track only has 4 spaces. Oh, don't believe it. This game, like most of Paul's designs, uses a deck of cards and once the entire deck is exhausted or a joker shows up, then the turn is over, not before.

In-addition to the game, one will need a standard deck of cards or the enhance "Fighting Eagles Action Deck" (or as I like to call it the "FEAD" for this game.)  Cost is $8.00. Why the deck?
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I am pushing it because if you get it, a lot of "specialized" math rules go out the window... which is good.

For example, though the math is simple, one has to figure it out first. With the FEAD, one doesn't have to figure all that out, what you see is what you get - if a Black 5 is drawn, as the German, you would have 5 APs to move your planes.

Also, if in combat, when the same card color is drawn for your nationality, the number shown is doubled (example - as the German if you are in combat and draw a black 5, then it is doubled to 10 and then all the modifiers are applied. Pretty Slick.). Since there are no face cards, then any type of special activity is printed on some of the cards, such as "check for Guns Jamming". At that point you follow the cards. Makes life (and playing this game) so much easier. Plus in addition to the card deck, one will need to supply a standard 6 sided die (1D6)

How to read an Aircraft counter
Action Points "just a fancy name for movement"
Action Points (AP) are equal to half of the card value, rounding up (example: a Red three (3) card is drawn, halved is 1.5, rounded up gives the Allied player two (2) APs to use for movement.) I believe (though not asked) this rule stops a player from moving everything at once. And puts the game into more manageable time elements, I believe. I am not sure what the size of a square is on the ground or the how many seconds/minutes an AP is. It just ain't important.

Allied Player draws a red 3. 3/1.5 = 1.5 rounded up is 2.
In the above example, the Allied player has 2 Action Points (AP's) to either move and setup an attack (remember it requires one AP to be allocated to be able to fire.) Continuing with the example, the Allied player moves his plane 1 square forward and spends the last AP on attacking a German plane.  Or if the German aircraft is one level lower, he could have dive (1 AP to change levels), then set up his attack (cost 1 AP) for a total of 2 action points (all he had).
Once the AP's for movement and attack setup have been used, then the card is discarded. If one player is attacking the other, then the attacker draws a card for combat. These cards can be any color, doesn't matter for combat, with a regular card deck.

Movement - Each aircraft can move, but not all can move like the next. Does that make sense? Found on page 1 of the rules, is a movement diagram showing the cost and how these planes can move. The diagram also shows one how both the inline engine acft makes its moves and turns and how a rotary engine acft makes it's moves and turns. It is large and well placed. But I bet after using it 5 or 7 times, you will remember it.

Altitude with an attitude - The game does have different altitudes. These range from - very low, low, medium, high and very high. You use markers behind the acft to should where you are in the scheme of things (no markers for medium). And of course when it comes to bombing or strafing or being shot at by AA, altitude makes the difference.

More than one acft can be in a square, but you can't fire at anyone in your square. Heck you will find this all in the rules. There is also acft fragility (look's Italian, a major award!), Power Dive, High Climber, Observer Fire, Observer being incapacitated. And of course winning the game.

Fighting Eagles comes with just the right mix of items to keep the game going.

Combat Part I or "WTF, why are they shooting at me?"
{There are a couple of rules that one can use for face cards in combat as they aren't counted. Both players can (and should) agree that a face card is a miss or if one is drawn then it is discarded and another card drawn. Whatever you want. Some of the good-stuff rules forces the use of the rule "Face Cards being a miss". Such as guns jamming (any face card) and that happened a lot of the time due to faulty ammunition, dirt on ammo, MG's not clean correctly if at all, etc), or if you have a bomber with a rear observer/gunner, then he may be wounded/ killed by turning over a Queen or King face card. Face cards are required for bomb drops in addition to regular suit cards.

Words to live by...
Oswald Boelcke did something that up until 1918 no person ever did. He wrote a set of rules to teach on how to become a better killer in an acft. He set pen to paper and wrote these rules. Presented first in his native language, then in English for the rest of us.
Oswald Boelcke 1916

Die Dicta Boelcke von Oswald Boelcke
1. Sichere Dir die Vorteile des Luftkampfes (Geschwindigkeit, Höhe, zahlenmäßige Überlegenheit, Position), bevor Du angreifst. Greife immer aus der Sonne an.
2. Wenn Du den Angriff begonnen hast, bringe ihn auch zu Ende.
3. Feuere das MG aus nächster Nähe ab und nur, wenn Du den Gegner sicher im Visier hast.
4. Lasse den Gegner nicht aus den Augen.
5. In jeglicher Form des Angriffs ist eine Annäherung an den Gegner von hinten erforderlich.
6. Wenn Dich der Gegner im Sturzflug angreift, versuche nicht, dem Angriff auszuweichen, sondern wende Dich dem Angreifer zu.
7. Wenn Du Dich über den feindlichen Linien befindest, behalte immer den eigenen Rückzug im Auge.
8. Für Staffeln: Greife prinzipiell nur in Gruppen von 4 bis 6 an. Wenn sich der Kampf in lauter Einzelgefechte versprengt, achte darauf, dass sich nicht viele Kameraden auf einen Gegner stürzen.

Dicta Boelcke by Oswald Boelcke (English)
1. Secure the benefits of aerial combat (speed, altitude, numerical superiority, position) before attacking. Always attack from the sun.
2. If you start the attack, bring it to an end.
3. Fire the machine gun up close and only if you are sure to target your opponent.
4. Do not lose sight of the enemy.
5. In any form of attack, an approach to the opponent from behind is required.
6. If the enemy attacks you in a dive, do not try to dodge the attack, but turn to the attacker.
7. If you are above the enemy lines, always keep your own retreat in mind.
8. For squadrons: In principle attack only in groups of four to six. If the fight breaks up in noisy single battles, make sure that not many comrades pounce on an opponent.

Combat Part II(continue)
There is one rule you need to know about and that is about these two face cards - the Queen and King, if drawn in Combat it is a "miss" and you will need to check your guns by rolling a 1D6. If the die roll is greater than the acft AF (Action Factor) then your guns are jammed. Don't worry, while you can't shoot, you can try to un-jam your guns each time your card color comes up and spend 1 Ap.

To un-jam those deliverers of death, you spend 1 Ap, and roll a 1D6. If you were attacking a balloon, add +1 to the die roll. If the Pilot is an Ace, then -1 to the die roll (and yes, you could be an Ace pilot attacking a balloon, then they would cancel each other out.). If you roll less than or equal to your acft AF (you know what that is, by now) then the guns are un-jammed.

I am not sure if this can only be done once a game or if it can be done every card draw. Me, I believe that the reason pilots carried wooden mallets was just for this - to whack at the MG to get that miss-fed cartridge out of the breech. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. And I would support in my games, rolling when one's card is drawn and spending that 1 Ap. But if you want to know the the correct version, I believe you should sent HFDG, LLC an email asking to clarify - then let me know. 🙀

Combat Part III (continue)
One draws a card, consulting the Combat Modifiers Chart table on the game map, You take the value of the card and add or subtract all of the modifiers that applies to arrive at your final number. Remember, everything is accumulative and add or subtract it from the card's value that you drew. If the attackers value is greater than the defenders defense then the defender's acft is damage and flipped over. That's it. A damage acft has various rules that get applied to it. Be sure to look them up.

There is also AA combat, Strafing, Bombing, and Balloon Busting. Just read the rules and don't try to read too much in them. They will make sense.

The five scenarios included in the game are Red Baron's Final Flight, Frank Luke's Final Flight, Bombing, Balloon Busting, and the primary scenario giving in the beginning. You can always change things up by switching places, make the British sweat watching his balloons go "POOF" or the Death of Albert Ball (don't forget the 3 AA guns and 3 dummies).

This game is more than a game, it is a gaming system where all sorts of battles can be played. If you don't like the time period late 1917 to end of 1918, then with a little research, you can come up with planes from 1915 - DH-2, anyone? Or an Eindecker, bitte! And if you don't like having weather or sun, then just play without.

Play with the DH-4 Bomber or Halberstadt C.1, only this time they are Recon acft, out taking photos of the front lines. for example They could be protected by 2 SE-5a's or several Tri-planes if you want.

With this, I am going to close on this review:
Complexity of the game = LOW.
Solitaire = HIGH (very little work is needed, but very doable!)
Fun Level = HIGH (the only thing missing is the Castor Oil)
Nail biting = 8 fingers worth, lost almost all of those nails.
Length of typical full game = 1 hour to 3 hours (my fault as I took my time!)

Update - 25th April 2019 - Out of the 50+ games, I have played, both sides won and lost, victories have been very even. I tend to think of it as it that as in real life, the game is just the luck of the draw.

Other tidbits of useless info...
My love of WW1 aviation came about several ways - my family has always been with flying in one form or another. Watching World War I aviation movies (my family has always been involved with movie production and theaters too).

This is my collection of DVDs/Blu-Rays:
The Blue Max (1966) - Good, though one has to think beyond the bi-planes used.
Hell’s Angels (1930) - Tops. The action makes up for the love story and even has Zeppelins.
Aces High (1976) - ok, not great.
The Dawn Patrol (1930) - The original. Very good 
The Dawn Patrol (1938) - a better remake of the original. Tops
Von Richthofen and Brown (1971) - Good
Wings (1927) - Great movie. Great action and the planes are the real McCoy. Being only 9 years after the great war.
The Eagle and The Hawk (1933) - Good
Suzy (1936) - too much of a love story for my taste.
FlyBoys (2006) - never watched, too much CGI for me
The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) - Interesting story. What starts at the end of WW1 is finished some years later.

Thanks for reading!
-ab out

Also I need to add, this blog is considered to be a living blog. Changes will be made to it as needed to clarify, correct errors or update with new information.

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