Red Eagle

Gervais pushed his foot down hard on left rudder and slammed the control stick against the firewall, holding on for dear life as the biplane shuddered and the engine whined in protest. His stomach flip-flopped as he rolled, twisting his neck painfully to keep eyes on the Albatros, the white and black crosses standing out like banners. Hot castor oil splattered against the lenses of his goggles, but he whooped with joy as he settled in behind the other aircraft. He could see its pilot looking around frantically, having lost Gervais during the turn.

Too late - always keep your eyes on the target. Words Gervais lived by as he held the trigger down until the German bus suddenly heeled over and began an almost graceful dive into the cratered dirt. Almost beautiful in a melancholy way - but no time for philosophy. Something gave on Gervais' Nieuport with a bang and the whole bus started vibrating violently. As he struggled to keep it going the way he wanted, he whipped his head around, squinting at the sun himself, and spotted the other Albatros. He was turning in for a high pass…

Red Eagle is a game of high risk aerial combat above the battlefields of the Great War. Manage risk and reward to emerge the ace-of-aces. The goal is to shoot down your opponents with daring maneuvers, pushing right up to the edge of the envelope and beyond. The core concept is that you can always achieve what you set out to do - the question is how much risk you're willing to take to do it, and whether you can survive the consequences.

Though the core model is based on World War I style air-to-air combat, the design is intended to be flexible enough to be used for other kinds of aerial contests, such as races and barnstorming competitions, and different eras of flight, including fantastical ones.

The setting Lufbery Circle uses a modified version of Red Eagle's rules in a custom setting and includes some advanced character creation and combat rules.

The Name

The name Red Eagle is partly inspired by the Prussian chivalric order, Roter Adlerorden. It was the second highest order for the Kingdom of Prussia. Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, the Red Baron, won it for his 70th aerial victory in WWI. It also brings to mind aerial combat. The highest order, Pour le Mérite or the Blue Max, is already used as the name for several other games.

Setting Up the Game

Each player will need:

  • A standard poker deck (with Jokers), shuffled
  • A Pilot/Aircraft sheet
  • A pencil and pad of paper (or sticky notes)
  • A Maneuvers list

Everyone will share:

  • A supply of counters to represent Skill (white poker chips, white dice, etc.)
  • A supply of counters to represent Risk (red poker chips, red dice, etc.)

It is suggested you use:

  • An Initiative marker of some kind
  • A die or other counter to keep track of Passes in a Turn

Setting Up Pilot and Aircraft

Each Pilot has Panache 6 and Skill 6. Have each Pilot draw a card off the top of their deck. In order of highest draw (Spades trump) each Pilot selects a Signature Maneuver.

Each Aircraft starts at a base of Speed 3, Guns 1, and Durability 8. This represents a basic biplane fighter. Different types of base aircraft can be chosen, with the following modifications.

  • Pusher: -1 Speed, +2 Durability
  • Monoplane: +1 Speed, -2 Durability
  • Triplane: +1 Skill per turn, -1 equipment

Each aircraft gets three pieces of equipment as well (except for triplanes). Chose from the following list, each item adds the listed effect. Starred items can be chosen more than once.

  • Extra Machine Gun* (+1 Guns)
  • Cantilever Wing (+1 Skill per Turn)
  • Steel Tube Frame (+2 Durability)
  • In-Line Engine (+1 Speed)
  • Syncro Gear (+2 Skill per Turn, may only be used for Attack)
  • Improved Control Surfaces (+2 Skill per Turn, may only be used for Evade or Recover)
  • Two-Seater (-1 Speed; Advanced Maneuver: if Attacked by a Pilot you are not Attacking, you can choose to make a special Guns 1 Attack on the Attacking aircraft. This occurs on the Attacker's Initiative and is resolved like a Head-to-Head attack. If you chose an Evade action, you may spend Skill on defense.)


Red Eagle takes place in Turns and Passes. A Turn consists of a Setup phase, in which Skill is generated and automatic Calls are resolved, a number of Passes, and an End phase where decks are reshuffled and leftover Skill is removed. There is one Pass for every active Player, with a minimum of three Passes.

A Pass consists of Selection, where each Pilot chooses a Maneuver and a Target, a Reveal when these choices are show, and an Execute when the Maneuvers are resolved. After these steps, begin a new Pass until you have taken as many Passes as there were active Pilots when the Turn started.

The Structure of a Turn

  • Crack Up : If any Pilot has more than twice their Panache in Risk, they suffer an immediate Call. Resolve these Calls before moving on.
  • Setup : Each Pilot receives their Skill for the Turn. Determine the number of active Pilots. This is the number of Passes for this Turn.
  • Pass 1 : Resolve the first Pass.
    • Selection : Each Pilot secretly selects a Maneuver and a Target. This is done simultaneously.
    • Reveal : Each Pilot reveals their Maneuver and Target, again simultaneously.
    • Execute : In order of Speed, each Pilot takes the Initiative and uses their chosen Maneuver.
  • Pass 1+N : Repeat until you have taken as many Passes as there were active players at the start of the Turn.
  • End: Reshuffle your discarded cards back into your deck, save any un-used Aces. Remove any unspent Skill.


Maneuvers are the actions of Red Eagle. There are three types of Maneuvers - Basic, Advanced, and Signature. Each Pass, a player chooses a Maneuver to attempt.

Basic Maneuvers

There are four Basic Maneuvers: Attack, Defend, Evade, and Position.

You make an Attack on your Target.
If you are the subject of an Attack, the opponent must exceed your Defense number in order to add Risk or force a Call. Additionally, if you are not Attacked this Pass, on your Initiative you can reduce your Risk by an amount equal to Skill you spend.
You immediately reduce your Risk by one when you reveal Recover. One your Initiative, you can reduce your Risk by an amount equal to Skill you spend.
On your Initiative, generate 2 Skill, or refresh your ability to use an Advanced Maneuver.

Advanced Maneuvers

Advanced Maneuvers typically combine the effects of two Basic Maneuvers, though there are some special Advanced Maneuvers as well (such as the counter attack afforded by Second Seat). Only one Advanced Maneuver can be used per Turn. Six of the Advanced Maneuvers are combinations. One is a special case.

You gain the listed benefits of the Evade maneuver, but can also make an Attack on your Initiative.
You immediately reduce your Risk by one. On your Initiative, you first make an Attack and then gain the benefits of the Recover maneuver.
On your Initiative, you first make an Attack and then gain the benefits of the Position maneuver. You cannot reset the use of an Advanced Maneuver. You may not spend the Skill generated by Position on the Attack.
You immediately reduce your Risk by one. You gain the listed benefits of the Evade maneuver, but can also gain the benefits of the Recover maneuver on your Initiative. If you are not attacked this turn, reduce your Risk by an additional one on your Initiative.
You gain the listed benefits of the Evade maneuver, but can also gain the benefits of the Position maneuver on your Initiative. You cannot reset the use of an Advanced Maneuver. You may not spend the Skill generated by Position to reduce Risk.
You immediately reduce your Risk by one. You gain the benefits of both the Recover and Position maneuvers, but cannot reset the use of an Advanced Maneuver. You may spend the Skill generated by Position to reduce Risk
Break Off
Use only if you are using an Attack maneuver and are yourself the subject of an Attack this turn. You do not make your Attack. Instead, you gain the benefits of the Defend maneuver. You cannot use Break Off if you are using an Advanced or Signature Maneuver this Pass.

Signature Maneuvers

Signature Maneuvers are unique special effects that go above and beyond what is normally possible. A Signature Maneuver can only be used once per Turn and cannot be reset by Position. Only one Pilot can have a given Signature Maneuver in a game. Here are some example Signature Maneuvers.

Immelmann Turn
Attack/Position. If the Attack is successful you may either use twice your Guns when adding Risk, or add your Guns worth of Risk and then force a Call.
Attack/Position. If the Attack is successful you may either use twice your Guns when adding Risk, or make the Target draw an extra card if you force a Call.
Low Yo-Yo
Attack/Recover. If you are not Attacked this turn, you gain 2 bonus Skill for the Attack. You are at speed +1 for the next Pass.
High Yo-Yo
Attack/Evade. If you are not Attacked this turn, you gain 2 bonus Skill for the Attack. You are at speed +1 for the next Pass.
Defensive Spiral
Evade. Additionally, if your are the subject of an effective Attack this Pass the opponent cannot force a Call, and adds half (round down) of their Guns when adding Risk. If you are not attacked, reduce Risk by one immediately on your Initiative before spending Skill.
Barrel Roll
You can use Break Off even if you do not have an available Advanced Maneuver. Additionally you immediately generate two Skill.

Resolving Maneuvers

Any Pilot using a Defend has it active for the entire Pass. If you reach your Initiative and are not the subject of an Attack this pass (either before or after your Initiative) you may spend one Skill and

For other Maneuvers, when it is your Initiative, you resolve your Maneuver. For Evade, you spend however many Skill you wish to expend and reduce that much Risk immediately. For Position, you decide on your Initiative whether you are gaining Skill or refreshing your Advanced Maneuver and this effect takes place immediately.

Attacks are the most complicated. On your Initiative, when you make an Attack you and the Defender each secretly determine how much Skill and Risk you are spending. The total spent sets the Attack and the Defend number. Once this is chosen, reveal the Attack and Defend numbers. If the Attack number is equal to or greater than the Defend number, the Attack is successful. On a successful Attack, the Target gains additional Risk equal to your aircraft's Guns plus the difference between the Attack number and the Defense number. For example, if you spend 8 between Skill and Risk to Attack vs a Defense of 7, and have Guns 2, you add 3 Risk to the target [ (Attack - Defense) + Guns = (8-7)+2 = 3 ]. If the Target's Risk is greater than their Panache, instead of adding Risk you may choose to force a Call on them. See below for more about Calls.

When resolving Attacks, each player involved should either secretly write down how much they are spending, or give this information to a Referee (the Referee is another player at the table not currently involved in the Attack).

You can spend as much as you'd like on Attack or Defend. Note that if you have too much Risk at the start of the next Turn, you may suffer automatic Calls.

Order of Execution

When two Pilots act on the same Initiative, certain orders take priority.

Attack resolves first. If a Pilot is attacking another Pilot who is also making an attack, you need to determine the which Pilot is at the bottom of the chain - in other words, which Pilot is attacking a Pilot who is not themselves attacked. For example, if Alice is attack Bob who is attacking Christina who is attacking David who is using Position, the order of resolution is Alice first, Bob second, and Christina third.

If one of the Pilots in the chain is Shot Down before they can attack, then the attack never occurs. For example, if Alice shoots down Bob, then Christina is never attacked and is free to continue her attack on David.

If two Pilots attack each other, they go Head-to-Head. Pilots who go Head-to-Head cannot spend skill on Defense. Both attacks will resolve, even if one pilot is Shot Down. Each Pilot determines their Attack and Defend numbers at the same time.

Calls and Damage

Calls are the only way someone can be shot down, as it is the only way to deal damage.

If you are the subject of a successful attack and have more Risk than your Panache score, the opponent can force a Call on you. If you start a round with Risk equal to or greater than twice your Panache, you automatically suffer a Call.

When you suffer a Call, you draw one card from the top of your deck for each point of Risk over your Panache. For example, if you have Panache 6 and 10 Risk, you draw four cards on a Call. Depending on the results of the draw, the target of the Call will likely suffer damage according to the guidelines below. Each point of damage reduces an aircraft's Durability by 1. An aircraft with 0 Durability is Shot Down. Durability cannot be recovered during the course of play.

After a Call, mitigate Risk equal to the number of cards you drew. Normally this will reduce you to your Panache score in Risk, but in certain cases you will be reduced below your Panache score.

Draw Rules

Different draws will have different effects, and the types of card you draw will determine Damage.

  • If you draw 2-10 of any suit, it counts as one hit for drawing the suit. If you draw multiple cards of 2-10 in the same suit, it only counts once. For example, if you draw four and get 2♥, 6♥, 4♦, 9♦ you take two Hits for drawing hearts and diamonds. Face cards have additional effects.
  • A Jack forces an additional draw. If the card draw is of the same suit as the Jack, at the end of the turn you can mitigate one outstanding Risk. Examples: J♥, 4♥, 2♣, 4♣ with an additional draw of 7♣ is worth two Hits. If the additional draw was 7♦ it would be worth three Hits. If it was 7♥ however it would be worth two Hits and one Risk mitigation.
  • A Queen is worth an additional Hit if it is the only card you draw of its suit. If all the cards you draw are of the same suit as the Queen, at the end of the turn you can mitigate two outstanding Risk. Q♥, 7♣, 2♣, 4♣ would be worth three Hits. Q♥, 7♥, 2♣, 4♣ would only be worth two Hits. Q♥, 7♥, 2♥, 4♥ would be worth one Hit and two Risk mitigation.
  • A King is worth an additional Hit as long as one other card of its suit is drawn. If all of the other cards draw are the same suit as the King, an additional Hit for every other card drawn. If the King is the only card of its suit you draw, at the end of the turn you can mitigate three outstanding Risk. K♥, 7♥, 2♣, 4♣ would be worth three Hits. K♥, 7♥, 2♥, 4♥ would be worth four Hits - one for the suit, three for other cards drawn. K♥, 7♣, 2♣, 4♣ would be worth two Hits and three Risk mitigation.
  • Drawing an Ace is a very good thing. When you draw an Ace, put it aside for later. After any other draw, you can discard the Ace and any one drawn card. Also, you can choose whether or not to consider the Ace's suit, depending on which favors you more. A draw of A♠, K♠, 3♦, 5♦, 6♦ does not trigger the King's additional Hit (and would trigger its Risk mitigation) while a A♠, Q♠, 3♦, 5♦, 6♦ also does not trigger the Queen. Each yields only two Hits. Note that you cannot use the Ace immediately - if you draw A♠, K♠, Q♠, 5♦, 6♦ you cannot remove the Q♠ immediately to get down to two Hits. This draw would be worth three Hits. However, if you later draw K♥, Q♥, 2♣, 4♣ you can play the A♠ to discard the Q♥, reducing from three to two Hits AND mitigating three Risk. You can play more than one Ace per draw, if you have multiple available.
  • A Joker is the worst draw. Each Joker is worth one Hit in and of itself, and forces you to draw two additional cards. For example J, 2♥, 6♥, 4♦, 9♦ is worth three Hits immediately and forces you to draw two - if you got 8♣, 3♠ you would be up to five Hits immediately. However if you have an Ace from earlier, such as A♠, you can discard the Joker. This reduces from five to two since you are left with 2♥, 6♥, 4♦, 9♦. Drawing both Jokers at once is the worst possible draw. In that case, you draw a card for every point of Risk you have, not just for the ones over your Panache. Example: If you have Panache 5 and a total of 9 Risk, a Call forces you to draw four - J, J, 6♥, 4♦. This is already worth four Hits, and now you draw five more - 7♣, 2♣, 8♣, 6♠, 5♠ would add two more Hits for a total of six.

After a draw throw all the cards, except saved Aces, into your own discard pile. If you get Called more than once during a turn, keep drawing off the top of the deck - if you somehow don't have any more cards to draw but are forced to, you've been Shot Down. At the end of each turn you reshuffle your deck, save for any Aces you have put aside.

Additional Examples

  • A draw five yields K♣, J♥, 10♦, 9♠, Q♣. The J♥ forces an additional draw of 10♥. Because we draw in suit, we get to mitigate one Risk at the end. The Q♣ has no special effect because of the K♣, but conversely the K♣ is worth an extra hit. We drew all four suits, so that's four more hits. Final total is a nasty five hits and one Risk mitigation.
  • A draw six yields 2♠, K♥, 5♦, A♥, 7♣, 10♣. We put the A♥ aside. The K♥ does not trigger because we choose to pretend the A♥ doesn't count for it, which also means we get the three Risk mitigation from it! We once again drew every suit. This time that's worth four hits and three Risk mitigation.
  • A draw three gets us 10♣, A♣, A♦ - an amazing draw. We put aside the two Aces, and decide to use our A♥ to discard the 10♣ and thus take no hits.

Modes of Play and Winning the Game

Ace in a Day
The first Pilot to five Kills wins. A Pilot who is shot down re-enters the game, and Kills are persistent. You can choose Stock (in which the Pilot cannot change their aircraft after being Shot Down) or Custom (in which each time a Pilot re-enters they can choose a new aircraft load out). This is the default mode of play. If two Pilots manage to get five Kills simultaneously (generally through a Head-to-Head), whoever was Shot Down the least wins.
Combat Patrol
Combat lasts a set number of Turns and the Pilot with the most Kills at the end of the patrol wins. Pilots can re-enter the game, again either under Stock or Custom rules. If you wish to resolve ties, the Pilot shot down the fewest times wins. If this is still tied, check to see who has the most Durability left on their current aircraft. If this is tied, move to current Risk. If the Pilots are still tied, shuffle and draw, highest draw wins.
Ace of Aces
This is a free-for-all elimination format in which every Pilot is out for themselves, and a Pilot who is Shot Down is out of the game.


Break up into teams of at least two Pilots each. You can then play one of the above modes with the following changes.

Ace in Day
Raise the number of Kills a team needs to accumulate by 5 for each team member. If each Team has two Pilots, then you need 10 kills. If each team has three Pilots, you need 15 Kills.
Combat Patrol
Whichever team has the most cumulative Kills wins. In the case of ties, the team was Shot Down the fewest times total wins. If still tied, highest total current team Durability win. Then lowest total team Risk. Then draw.
Ace of Aces
Last team with at least one Aircraft still active wins.