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Posted on Sep 13, 2019 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“Fight on and fly on to the last drop of blood and the last drop of fuel, to the last beat of the heart.” ― Baron Manfred von Richthofen – Review of Fighting Eagles

“Fight on and fly on to the last drop of blood and the last drop of fuel, to the last beat of the heart.” ― Baron Manfred von Richthofen – Review of Fighting Eagles

Rick Martin

Fighting Eagles –  Board Game Review.  Publisher: High Flying Dice Games   Game Designer:   Paul Rohrbaugh  Price  $7.95 with unmounted counters or $11.95 with mounted counters

Passed Inspection:  Fun, introductory aviation war game, fantastic value for the price, perfect to take on trips, excellent solo play

Failed Basic: nothing at all

Paul Rohrbaugh’s High Flying Dice Games has made a name for itself  in the field of easy to learn, fun to play, inexpensive board war games. The zip lock bagged  “Fighting Eagles” covers the air war in Europe during 1918 on a tactical, plane to plane scale.

The game’s components include:

a 3 page rule booklet

an 8 ½ “ x 11 “ map board

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39 counters

You’ll need 1 pack of playing cards and 1 six sided die.

Yes – you read it right!!!  This game comes with a 3 page rule book and in those rules are covered everything you need to know about playing World War I air combat including altitude, combat, maneuvers, strafing, anti-aircraft fire, balloons, two-seaters and  scouts, bombing, weather, rockets, incendiary bullets, fragile aircrafts and gun jamming. 

Everything is covered in detail with charts included.  The efficiency in which Rohrbaugh covers the subjects reminds me of the efficiency of the rules in Steve Jackson’s classic “1 Page Bulge” game from 30 years ago. 

The game comes with five scenarios including your basic dog fight, balloon busting, bombing and “The Red Baron’s Final Flight” as well as “Frank Luke’s Final Flight”.

 The aircrafts included are the Se-5a, Sopwith Camel, Spad XIII, Nieuport 28 and the Dh4 for the Entente and America.  The Germans have the Pfalz D.III, Fokker Dr1, Albatross D.V, Fokker D.VII, the Fokker E. VIII and the Halberstadt CL.  Observation balloons for each side as well as anti-aircraft guns counters are also included.  For each plane there is a counter for an Ace pilot and a counter for a damaged aircraft complete with flames.  Counters are also included to track game turns, altitude, the position of the sun, etc.  The counters come unmounted or mounted for an additional $4.

Each aircraft is rated for whether it has a rotary engine (for some tricky hands of stick torque maneuvers), Action Factor and Defensive Factor.  Two-seaters are rated with a Bombing Factor.

The map shows the front lines with trenches over which is superimposed a grid.  Since the map is only 8.5 inches by 11 inches, this game can be played on a very small table which makes it perfect to take on trips and set up in a small hotel room.  There is a turn record track on the map as well as a listing of combat modifiers and a nice key to the information on the game counters.

Each scenario lasts for 4 turns.  As will be explained below, the turn length is fungible.

The turn sequence is as follows:

  1. Set up the board per the scenario that you have chosen to play.
  2. Draw a card from your deck of playing cards.
  3. If it is not the first turn and the card drawn is a Joker- the turn ends.  If it is the end of turn 4, the planes are either out of ammo or on bingo fuel.  Either way, they break off and return to an airfield.
  4. If the card is a red card, the Entente can activate units.  If the card is black, the Germans can activate. If the card is a red or black face card, anti-aircraft guns can fire if an aircraft is within its range.  Also for a face card, the respective side can give 3 Action Points to one aircraft.
  5. The activated player may play up to half of the value of the card played by expending Action Points which are shown on each aircrafts counter.  There are rules and charts as to how many Action Points are expended per type of maneuver, altitude gain or less or combat action such as firing machine guns or rockets.  An aircraft can perform up to its Action Factor in Action Points.  I have included a picture of showing examples of the different types of maneuvers in the game.
  6. Go back to 2 above.

There are five bands of altitude: Very Low, Low, Medium, High, and Very High.  A counter is put on near the aircraft or balloon showing the current altitude.  If the aircraft is at Medium altitude, do not put a counter on it.  Aircrafts can only fire at aircrafts at their same altitude but anti-aircraft guns can shoot at targets at different altitudes – they just get a negative modifier to hit.

Combat is simple and elegant – machine guns have a range of 2 hexes. A scout airplane can only fire in front of it but a two-seater can fire with its front guns or rear guns.  The firing player draws a card.  Modify the card’s value based upon the Combat Modifier Chart on the map.  If the final number is greater than the target’s Defense Factor, the target is damaged.  If the target was already damaged, it is destroyed.  For strafing ground targets, draw a card and if you get an 8 or better, you destroy the ground target. For bombing, draw a card add the bomber’s Bombing Factor to the number of the card.  Add modifiers for altitude.  If you get a 10 or higher, you destroy the target.  For combat, face cards have no value.  If you are shooting machine guns and draw a face card, roll a 6 sided die.  If you get a result higher than the firing airplanes Action Factor, the gun is jammed.  You must then attempt to clear the jam and hope you aren’t being attacked while you are defenseless.

If you have an Ace pilot (at least five kills), you get positive modifiers to almost all your actions.

I was rather surprised that the wind direction seems to effect gun targeting but doesn’t seem to have any effect on movement.

So how does the game play?  It’s fast and fun and seems to abstractly capture the feel of World War I fighter combat.  You can play a four aircraft fight in about an hour to an hour and a half.  Fighting Eagles has become my new go to game when I want some World War I action but don’t have time for a game of Wings of Glory.  It feels a little like TSR’s game Dawn Patrol if any of you out there remember that wonderful 1982 board game.

By randomizing the set up (dropping the aircrafts on the map) and then blindly drawing the Altitude Chits, you can play this game nearly perfectly as a solo game!  The randomness of the card draw helps add some uncertainty to the game play and if a plane is damaged, just assign a die roll to determine if the enemy pilot stays in combat or tries to flee.  It works great.  Plus with balloon busting and bomber missions, you’ve got the perfect solo scenario!

I really enjoyed this game and for less than $10, how can you go wrong?  Now I hope that Paul does some prequels to cover air combat from 1914 to 1917!

In addition, a Fighting Eagles’ Playing Card Deck featuring period artwork from World War I can be purchased for $7 from High Flying Dice Games.

Get this game and prepare for some solid World War I aircraft action!

Armchair General Rating: 100 %

Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 to 5 with 1 being Poor and 5 being Perfect for Solo)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!  Rick is also the designer of Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit and Sherman Leader.

cover art
components
movement diagram
counters
over the trenches
escorting a bomber
the battle
balloon busting

1 Comment

  1. I love Pauls games, easy to learn and fun to play.

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