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Tabletop Game: Crimson Skies

You ever wanted to be a Sky Pirate kiddies? Well then have we got the game series for you. Created by Jordan Weisman and Dave McCoy, Crimson Skies is a media franchise and fictional Alternate Universe in which the United States of America collapsed in the 1930s into a bunch of quarreling nation-states. With the collapse of the federal government comes the collapse of the interstate network of roads and railroads; but goods still need to be transported across state lines. Stepping up to the challenge are air cargo services based around massive cargo zeppelins; but with modern air shipping comes modern air pirates!

Basically, the series is an excuse to - in Jordan Weisman's words - "take the idea of 16th century Caribbean piracy and translate into a 1930s American setting." So far the series consists of a board game from FASA, a collectible miniatures game from Wizkids,a series of books and three arcade flight-based video games published by Microsoft Game Studios: Crimson Skies for the PC, an arcade version and Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge for the Xbox.

Setting contains examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Entire series is based on this trope with several of the main characters being one. For instance, Nathan Zachary is a World War One Flying Ace.
  • Acrophobic Bird and Aerial Canyon Chase: both these tropes are present for Rule of Cool reasons: It's just more interesting to have a battle in a canyon and low hills instead of open air.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: A number throughout the series. The Fortune Hunters operate out of a carrier zeppelin, the Pandora, and most pirate gangs have one or two. Then there is the fact that each air force of the American successor states is bound to have at least one in their arsenal.
  • Airstrike Impossible: Nathan Zachary cannot resist a juicy target no matter how heavily guarded it is.
  • All There in the Manual: There is a series of books and an official website that can give you much more in-depth background information about the setting.
  • Alternate History: the divergent timeline begins after World War One with a "Regionalist movement" that grew out of the Isolationist movement. Prohibition failed as a constitutional amendment and states were left to create their own liquor laws dividing the nation between wet and dry states. Then an influenza epidemic forces states to close their borders, further dividing the Union. And shortly after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Texas seceded from the Union and formed the Republic of Texas on January 1, 1930. New York quickly followed. By 1931, the old United States was gone and the successor states were well on their way to becoming the new Balkans.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Medusas, an all female pirate gang with a hate for men... incidentally, their leader is Zachary's ex.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Die Spinne are German Fascists in the 1930s. Please don't work too hard to hide the obvious. The first game actually had Nazis when a giant Airship with the Swastika comes to raid New York.
  • Attack Its Weakpoint: All of Die Spinne's superweapons are usually invincible except for their weakpoints.
  • Bad Ass: Nathan Zachary
  • Badass Crew: The Fortune Hunters.
  • Balkanize Me: Happens to the United States. Examples of the USA's successor states include: The Kingdom of Hawaii (Hawaiian Islands), Pacifica (Washington State and Oregon with parts of Canada and northern California), the Nation of Hollywood (most of California along with parts of surrounding states), Arixo (Arizona-New Mexico, now mostly inhabited by Native Americans-with planes), the Industrial States of America (the Great Lakes States), the ISA's main rival The People's Collective (Christian Communist Nation formed out of the Mid-Western States) the Republic of Texas (self-explanatory) Empire State (New York) and the Confederation of Dixie (Guess). If you have any questions, please refer to this helpful map.
  • Battleship Raid: Any mission where you had to face an enemy zeppelin. This is also an option in the create-a-mission.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Played straight in the very beginning of High Road To Revenge with protagonist Nathan Zachary.
  • Big Applesauce: the final showdown between Nathan Zachary and Big Bad Lucas Miles in the PC game takes place over New York City.
  • Bigger Stick: In the PC game, completing missions gave you money which you could use to upgrade your existing plane or buy a new one custom-built to your specifications. The end result is that you can build a plane that is capable of killing anything in the skies.
  • Break the Haughty: Act III in the PC game begins with Nathan Zachary overhearing a radio broadcast by Johnny Johnson claiming that the Nation of Hollywood is safe from pirate scum like Zachery. Johnson goes on to verbally pat himself on the back for a minute or so prompting Zachary, who has a history with Johnson, to turn of the radio and mutter that someone needs to take the arrogant SOB down a peg or two. The next few missions consist of you doing just that.
  • Butt Monkey: Ace Dixon from the Computer game. You will shoot him down no less than four times, and he will scream and holler hilariously over the radios at you.
    Ace Dixon: NOOO! Not again! NOT BLOODY AGAAAAAAIN!"
  • City of Spies: Columbia
  • Commie Land: The People's Collective.
  • Cool Airship: Several throughout the series. Let's start with Nathan Zachary's Pandora.
  • Cool Plane: Most aircraft of the thirties didn't look as cool as the aircraft in the games.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Johnny Johnson and Lucas Miles.
  • Crapsack World
  • Deep South: Confederation of Dixie.
  • Divided States of America: The USA has dissolved into a bunch of bickering and quarreling nation-states. Over alcohol, even.
  • Diesel Punk: The series very much defined, and perhaps established, much of the modern style of this theme. Much of the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow seemed suspiciously similar or even lifted from Crimson Skies.
  • Eagle Land: the Empire State.
  • Enemy Chatter: enemy pirates, militia planes, zeppelins, ground forces and naval forces will taunt you over the radio, talk to each other, etc..
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Johnathon "Genghis" Khan is a ruthless Sky Pirate whose many misdeeds include starting a war between the Utah and the People's Collective simply to make some money. He does, however, have something of an honor code; when he gives his word to somebody he will honor it and if you save his life he will repay the favor.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: the first state to secede from the Union in the 1930s and pretty much putting the final nail in the United States' coffin. Now it's an independent republic (again).
  • The Federation: The Industrial States of America and the Confederation of Dixie both qualify.
  • Femme Fatale: the Black Swan.
  • Fragile Speedster: the Hughes Aviation Bloodhawk is one of the fastest aircraft in the setting but that speed comes at the price of crappy armor and light armaments.
  • Gangsterland:
    • Arixo
    • Free Colorado
  • Good Weapon, Evil Weapon: a lot of Pirate Gangs fly Fairchild F611 Brigands while air militias tend to fly aircraft like the William & Colt Peacemaker 370.
    • There is an aircraft company in the setting called the Blackflag Corporation. It is run by pirates and they actually raid other corporations for parts and weapons to build their aircraft. All of Blackflag's aircraft are designed and built by pirates for pirates.
  • Herr Doktor: Dr. Fassenbinder in the PC game. In High Road to Revenge both Fassenbinder and Dr. Von Essen.
  • High-Altitude Battle: What do you expect? It is an aerial combat flight simulator series.
  • Hollywood California: when California secedes from the Union it forms the Nation of Hollywood. Note that not all of California belongs to this new nation (Pacifica occupies the northern part of the state). As expected, most important events in this new nation tend to take place in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco.
  • Injun Country: Navajo Territory.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Outside of North America the world is pretty much exactly the same as it was in real life at the time. Justified in that the series takes place less than a decade after the point of divergence, not enough time for any particularly major changes to take place.
  • Kaizo Trap: In the PC game you can crash during the final mission after having achieved the victory conditions, and yes, you will have to replay the entire damn mission again.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Blackflag Firestorm; the plane earned its name when one of the first prototype fighters' guns were loaded with magnesium rounds and it spread so much fire across the sky that onlookers had thought the air itself had burst into flames.
  • The Kingdom: The Kingdom of Hawaii, which, coincidentally, is a pirate haven. The Kingdom looks the other way, as it tends to keep the other nations off its back. If it's not going to get invaded by the British.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: Blake Aviation Security.
  • Lethal Joke Plane: The Balmorral Bomber from the PC game is slow, clumsy and generally the absolute last choice for a multiplayer dogfight (see Mighty Glacier below). However, there's a couple of ways to customize it into a shockingly lethal gun platform.
  • Lightning Bruiser: the Focke-Wulf Hellhound qualifies.
  • Lightning Gun: the bad guys in High Road to Revenge have them.
  • Loveable Rogue: Nathan Zachary and a few others.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The most common pirate fighter plane is the Fairchild F611 Brigand.
    • The "Blackflag" corporation.
  • Mega-Maw Maneuver: One level of Highroad to Revenge has a giant zep designed to eat other zeps.
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • The Doppelganger from High Road is one of the slowest planes out there, but it can take a beating and has a tank cannon for its secondary weapon.
    • Other examples include the McDonnel S2B Kestrel, the British Balmoral and the Sikorksy SB-3 Mako. These planes might not be fast and maneuverable but they more then make up for it in terms of thick armor and heavy firepower. All three of these planes also have tail-gunners to discourage close pursuit by enemy aircraft.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: the series is practically loaded with this trope. First you have people with these names like air pirate Johnathan Genghis Khan; then you have aircraft with names like Hellhound, Devastator, Brigand, Fury; then you have ships and zeppelins like the Machiavelli; and lastly you have entire organizations like the Die Spinne (German for The Spider).
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Nathan Zachary, captain of the pirate airship Pandora and known throughout the Americas as the Gentleman Pirate.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: the few Real Life '30s aircraft that make it into the setting tend to be overshadowed by the fictional aircraft.
  • Pirate/Sky Pirate: Just about every major character. Nathan Zachary is definitely a Type 2 pirate. Others, like Ulysses Booth and Lucas Miles, are firmly in the Type 1 category.
  • Pirate Booty: the first few missions of the PC game centered around Nathan Zachary retrieving the lost treasure ship of Sir Francis Drakewhich is inexplicably in Hawaii.
  • Point Defenseless: all zeppelins have point defense turrets armed with flak guns, machine guns and rocket launchers. They pose more of a threat to AI controlled aircraft then to you.
  • Private Military Contractors: Several examples. First you have Law Enforcement, Inc. outfits like Blake Aviation Security that field fleets of zeppelin carriers and battleships in addition to several squadrons of fighter planes and regular ground troops and naval forces. Then you have pirate gangs that hire themselves out as mercenaries to the various American nations from time to time.
  • Privateer: Bands of aerial privateers have been awarded letters of marque by the new nations of North America to reward loyalty and direct piracy against that nation's enemies.
  • Rule of Cool: This is practically the soul of the series and the only reason we have things like zeppelins designed to eat other zeppelins, Humongous Mecha Spider Tanks, planes armed with lightning guns and last but not least a weather control device.
  • Schizo Tech: Remote-controlled rocket launchers, magnetic rockets and a Tesla coil-like weapons.
  • Shock and Awe: Die Spinne's Piranha fighter, armed with a pair of lightning cannons. It's always satisfying to watch your opponent's shorted-out plane spin into a cliff.
  • Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: Type III. When building the world, the designers started with 'we need an alternate history in which Sky Pirates would be plausible' and went from there; making that world realistic was far lower on their list of priorities. It's still pretty cool, though.
  • Spider Tank: Die Spinne makes use of giant, six legged machines with massive flamethrowers.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Die Spinne
  • Two-Fisted Tales: The beating heart of the series, especially High Road to Revenge.
  • Vestigial Empire: Columbia, the last remaining seat of the old USA's federal government, with Calvin Coolidge as President.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Big Bad air pirate Lucas Miles hides his operations behind a well-known private security firm: Sacred Trust Incorporated.
  • War for Fun and Profit: One of the first acts of the Red Skull Legion involved escorting a zeppelin supposedly full of Mormon refugees from the Industrial States of America. It wasn't, but the ruse allowed the zeppelin-loaded with a small army of pirates-to slip past Utah's air defense network. Once inside, the Red Skulls seized control of an airport and stole the zeppelin carrier Moroni (later renamed Machiavelli). Then the Red Skulls repainted their planes in the colors of the Utah Air Militia and launched a series of raids into the People's Collective. Utah got blamed and the People's Collective launched a series of punitive expeditions. While the Collective and Utah were at each others throats the Red Skulls slipped away scot-free with a brand new carrier zeppelin and a cargo hold of loot. Ladies and Gentleman, there is a reason that Red Skull founder and leader Johnathon "Genghis" Khan is considered a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Weather Control Machine: One of Die Spinne's superweapons. It's mounted on one really, really big zeppelin battleship.
  • Wretched Hive: Arixo, a desert nation-state formed from the remnants of Arizona and New Mexico. Its vast desolate and lawless expanses makes it a natural haven for bandit activity.
    • Which is nothing compared to the pirate kingdom of Free Colorado.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Somewhat appropriate considering the time period of the setting, but they were used far more than in real life.

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alternative title(s): Crimson Skies
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