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Crimson Skies

Entry updated 10 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Miniature models based Wargame (1998). FASA. Designed by Jordan Weisman, Dave McCoy, Michael A Stackpole.

Crimson Skies uses miniature models to represent small scale aerial battles, using a simple, streamlined rules system. It is set in an Alternate History version of the 1930s in which the USA has fragmented into a multitude of independent nations. In this history Prohibition is not enacted and an epidemic of influenza is brought home by soldiers returning from the Great War, two changes which cause states to barricade their borders against each other and the federal authorities. By the mid 1930s the previously United States of America have been replaced by the Nation of Hollywood (see California), the aggressively separatist Republic of Texas, the Christian Socialist People's Collective and the Confederation of Dixie, among others. Intermittent warfare has crippled the continental road and railway networks, causing commerce to take to the air in zeppelins, where air pirates hunt fat cargoes and militias and private bounty seekers hunt them. Exotic aircraft and bizarre Weapons abound, many of them based on unsuccessful historical prototypes, from autogyros and flying wings to aerial torpedoes and "drill rockets". The atmosphere is one of carefully crafted Retro-Pulp, reminiscent of such "air war" magazines as G-8 and His Battle Aces, and of their later reinvention in films like The Rocketeer (1991) and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004). Players are encouraged to treat Crimson Skies as a Role Playing Game as much as a Wargame, customizing their aircraft and creating colourful, swashbuckling pilots to fly them.

Crimson Skies (2000 Zipper Interactive, Win) is a Videogame based on the franchise which blends a simplified flight simulation game with a strong linear plot (see Interactive Narrative). The player adopts the role of a new recruit to the Fortune Hunters, a group of air bandits led by Nathan Zachary, ladykiller and gentleman pirate. The gameplay revolves around flying a series of combat missions in the player's choice of aircraft, with plentiful opportunities for performing daredevil stunts; the tone is flamboyant and knowing, a loving homage to the original pulps. In the end, Zachary and his pirates save Manhattan (see New York) and become public heroes. Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (2003 FASA, XBox) is a less successful sequel in which the player character is Zachary himself, seeking revenge for the murder of his friend Dr Fassenbiender by a group of megalomaniac Nazis. While some of the original game's roguish charm is retained, the story and gameplay of High Road to Revenge are both much simplified in comparison.

Related works: Crimson Skies (2003 WizKids) is a Collectible Miniatures Game based on the franchise, featuring both ground-based brawls between pilots and aerial combat using model aircraft. A considerable amount of fiction was written to promote the Wargame and published on the web, some of which was reprinted in the volumes Spicy Air Tales Vol. 1 (anth 1999) edited by Michael A Stackpole, Spicy Air Tales Vol. 2 (anth 1999) edited by Robert E Vardeman and Loren L Coleman, and Crimson Skies (anth 2002), which contains stories by Eric Nylund, Michael Lee, and Nancy Berman with Eric Trautmann. Two novels have also been published: Stephen Kenson's Wings of Fortune: Pirate's Gold (2000), which features Nathan Zachary, and Loren L Coleman's Wings of Justice: Rogue Flyer (2000). [NT]


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