Crimson Skies is a tabletop and video game franchise set in an alternate version of the late 1930s. The (Dis)United States has Balkanized into dozen or so countries; instead of railways and cars, you have giant zeppelins and planes. Which is awesome. Along with them come Air Pirates, Air Vigilantes/Militia, and many other Air-related things. Combine this with rapidly advancing plane, zeppelin, and weapon technology, and you have a pretty bitching background on your hands, including Nazis wielding Tesla Guns and Zeppelins which can hold an airfield's-worth of planes.
Chances are, however, you've heard about the vidja versions rather than original tabletop. That only makes sense, since the wargame has been out of print since 2001. Saddening in a sense, but Crimson Skies was created with the vidja game base in mind (Microsoft actually owns most of the game's rights). It does mean that much as the BattleTech 'verse is best-known from the Mechwarrior games, mentioning tabletop Crimson Skies will probably get you strange looks.
The mechanics themselves are based on an older FASA game, "Renegade Legion". As a FASA product, there are many fanboy shout-outs in the Crimson Skies backstory, especially to the developing BattleTech fluff.
A Clix game attempted to reboot the franchise in the early years of the 21st century, riding on the popularity of a new XBox game, but it crashed and burned almost immediately.
Crimson Skies was developed in a partnership between FASA and FASA Interactive (the latter company being owned by a mix of Microsoft and senior FASA employees). It started as a mixed tabletop and video game property, along the lines of the BattleTech/Mechwarrior franchise. Following FASA's typical model, the initial release had significant fluff and rules gaps that they planned to patch with subsequent novels and game sourcebooks. The timeline was set to begin in late !1936 and early 1937 (with all text written in-universe where possible), and advance throughout the sourcebooks. The game was first printed as a boxed set with punched-card counters. This release was contemporary with, and very similar to, the BattleTech 4th Edition boxes. The PC tie-in game was developed closely with the tabletop game's Line Developer and creative team, while FASA benefitted from Microsoft's graphics and model designing expertise.
The tabletop game has been dogged throughout its existence by poor marketing, and not at all helped by repeated buyouts killing releases mid-stride. FASA closed its doors long before the first edition was even mostly complete, selling the IP to WizKids; Microsoft acquired their share of FASA Interactive and promptly sat on the rights for years. The Clix reboot was similarly felled in its initial release waves after Topps acquired all the WizKids properties - and promptly killed almost all of them for a baseball CMG (yes, really).
All of the Crimson Skies games, books, and rulesets are out-of-print. The Clix rules are somehow more complex than the originals, but are also more commonly-available (since the original ruleset is years older and basically requires three books to play). Iron Wind Metals inherited the Crimson Skies molds along with the rest of Ral Partha's lines, and currently produce metal miniatures for some forty of the sixty-odd canon designs. The Clix game reproduced only eleven designs in plastic, plus one promotional "chibi" Santa Claus figure. They are the same scale as the metal models, though some are slightly revised to accommodate the new material.
- Boxed Set - Set in late '36 or early '37. Difficult to find. Contains three books, three double-sided maps, and a selection of record sheets for the 14 initial aircraft.
- Wings Over Manhattan - Set in late 1937. Added autogyro (primitive pseudo-helicopter) rules, and detailed the history of the Empire State, while adding significantly to the "American Breakup" storyline. Contains a bit of information on Quebec and the Outer Banks Protectorate, as well as the ISA. Adds two Autogyros, both "generic" aircraft.
- The Crimson Skies PC game came out around this time, adding semi-canon fluff as well as aircraft that never saw tabletop stats or minis (The Ford Hoplite autogyro and the Balmoral Bomber).
- Behind the Crimson Veil was the Pirate/Free Colorado sourcebook, and contained a major fix to the construction rules as well as rules for customizing planes in a campaign and boarding and prizing Zepps (the latter essentially taken from BattleSpace). All further books used the "optional" construction rules and costs from BtCV. Added quirks and revised the cost of all previous planes, but ignored autogyros. It contained two planes for Pacifica and one each for the ISA, Mexico, the Atlantic Coalition, and the British.
- Aircraft Recognition Manual - Set in 1937. Added 26 aircraft, giving each major !American power at least three. About two-thirds of the planes got a model; other than the promotional Misericorde, these were the last metals released for the game.
- Pride of the Republic - Set in 1938. Follows Texas' internal tensions, and the machinations of the European powers in the Southeast. The closest you'll ever see to a Dixie sourcebook. Added 4 Texan birds with one autogyro, as well as one French aircraft.
- unknown name - the Nation of Hollywood sourcebook was reportedly in-process when FASA went down, and already had a catalog number reserved, but never saw the light of day.
- Blake Aviation Security - Pure fluff, following "Paladin" Blake and his fellow unlucky bastards through several short campaigns.
- The Airman's Gazetteer - As with many FASA books, this is set up as an in-universe publication; a security brief from Blake Aviation Security. Discusses geopolitics in December of 1937. Adds seven more planes, most of which never saw a model release, and canonizes some of the events in the PC game.
- Spicy Air Stories - Several pulp novellas, along with stats for the Misericorde.
- Zeppelins and Bombers - Went up for preorder on Amazon (July 2001) but died with FASA. Recently the authors finished their draft copy and released it on the net. Rules for campaign/scenario and force design, bombers, parasite fighters, and of course Zepps.
- High Road to Revenge - the XBox game. Less simulation, more arcade game. Wildly popular, and briefly revived interest in the franchise. Added several new aircraft and weapons types. Notably, the "Coyote" depicted in this game (an agile middle-weight tractor-prop fighter) bears no resemblance whatever to the table-top aircraft of the same name (a heavy, pusher-prop flying wing design).
- 1920: Prohibition laws allow individual states to choose if they can sell alcohol freely. This divides the United States into "Dry" and "Wet" states.
- 1927: The United States is hit by a second, massive Influenza Epidemic, and movement between states is locked down by state-by-state quarantines. Zeppelin trade is pretty much given exclusive rights.
- 1928: The Regionalist movement becomes a strong figure in United States politics.
- 1929: After the Stock Market Crash, Texas Secedes from the Union, followed closely by the Empire State. The remaining states break up along cultural and economic fault lines.
- 1931: Texas and Mexico go to war. This ends badly for Mexico.
Countries of the Former USEdit
- Alaska - Undeveloped, currently suffering from aftermath of Russian Civil War between immigrants. Used by Soviets for its rich oil reserves.
- Appalachian Territory - Pirate/Smuggler Heaven that somehow holds an effective government. Still, one of the more dangerous airspaces in North America.
- Arixo - Small country that is surprisingly prosperous. Assumed to be heading for a conflict with Air Pirates it's currently paying off.
- Atlantic Coalition - Run the largest and longest Zeppelin operations in North America. A large transport business rather than a country.
- Columbia - Columbia is the city of Washington D.C... and that's it. Considered the diplomatic/espionage capital of North America.
- Confederation of Dixie - Confederates. A loose union of states whose main connection is their shared Confederate Air Force.
- Deseret - Mormons. Really, that's all there is to them.
- Disputed Western Territories - Mad Max in the Air. Chaotic and uncontrolled region.
- Empire State - New York, New York. Oh, and Jersey.
- Free Colorado - Bootlegging capital with a strong Air Pirate presence in certain areas. Self-sufficient and independent, otherwise.
- French Louisiana - French outpost within North America, Louisiana is undeveloped and lacks the military strength to protect itself independently. Houses French Foreign Legion.
- Industrial States of America - Industrial heart of North America. Suffers from tariffs and unions. Trade with the Germans.
- Lakota Territory - Militant conservative injuns. No, this isn't an insult, it really is the best way to describe them.
- Maritime Provinces - New England. Holds the largest commercial (and otherwise) naval fleet of the North America. They are also hold a part of Canada.
- Nation of Hollywood - Caw-lih-foh-nia. Best known for Hollywood, Films, and being the Media Capital of the North America.
- Navajo Territory - Very isolationist Indians. Not much else to them, except being more multicultural than Lakota Territory.
- Pacifica - Hollywood's main economic rival. Currently concerned with Air Pirates and White Russians trickling from Alaska.
- People's Collective - Christian Communism. The irony is so delicious it's beyond any mere description. Not friendly to neighbors due to various reasons.
- Protectorate of the Outer Banks - Confederate protectorate. Kinda just there.
- Republic of Texas - First state to leave the United States. Was in conflict with Mexico. They give no fucks and do what they please (for better or worse).
In addition to the dozen-or-so countries created from the ashes of the United States and Canada, the game occasionally deals with others. Amongst the major players is Britain, which continues its Imperialistic expansion. They were last seen trying to annex Hawaii; Hawaii being a Pirate Heaven, they got their asses kicked quite well. The USSR is known to openly trade with the North American countries and even fields a large fleet of Texan Devastators (you know, instead of developing planes of their own, meaning lack of developments in the Il- line of airplanes). The Japanese Empire is a major Pacific power and opponent of the British, for rather obvious reasons (that is, Pacific island land-grab). They trade with Pacifica and Hawwai'i. Finally, there is Germany. Pretty much the same as in our timeline, except they do some meddling in American affairs from time to time.
- British Empire - Brits. Prefer their tea with 3 tea spoons of sugar. With milk.
- Protectorate of Ontario - "Neutral" Canadians. Still protected by Brits but are taking steps to be self-reliant.
- Estados Unidos Mexicanos - Mexico. Known to have been in a conflict with Texas in the past. Otherwise, isolationist.
- France - Currently in a proxy war with the British (supporting Dixie) and the Texans
- République de Quebec - Quebec got its independence. No one likes them. Is that a surprise to anyone?
- Imperial Japan - Japs are the Brits' main opponent in the Pacific. In conflict with China but are not in alliance with Germany.
- Kingdom of Hawaii - Pirate Heaven to the point where pirates are given medals for fighting off British expansionary forces. Otherwise a friendly Absolute Monarchy open for trade.
- USSR - Russians are going through their 30s like they would do otherwise, except with many more zeppelins. Surprisingly friendly to North American countries.
- Blake Aviation Security - Showoffs and glory hogs, they have dropped the ball a few times. Despite those event, Blake's Security still holds a positive place in the limelight, if only because most of the time they can come in such a force that it's impossible for them to lose the engagement.
- Broadway Bombers - Elite Militia force of Empire State. Not the most numerous, but are considered the best.
- Hollywood Knights - Hollywood's militia. One of the first to try out the new toys that are out there for public sale.
- Texas Rangers - Fortunately, no Walker. Unfortunately, he runs a pirate gang.
- Black Hats - Main Antagonists of the first Video Game. Considered to be some of the bigger bastards around.
- Black Swans - Natasha Romanov and her White Russian pirate gang. Currently privateers in the service of the Empire State.
- Fortune Hunters - Main Protagonists of the Video Games. Considered honorable while being sufficiently infamous and piratey. Leader Nathan Zachary, seems to have slept with enough woman to start another North American country. And then to make an airforce to try to kill him.
- Los Muertos - Mexican Mercenary/Bandit/Pirate group. Were supported by Germans until the death of their leader "Muerte".
- Medusas - A Pirate Gang composed of your psycho ex-girlfriends. Even if you never had any before. Well, now you do - and they are angry.
- Ragin' Cajuns - Sea-based Air Pirates. Considered to be efficient at most things that they do. And they do a lot.
- Red Skull Legion - Biggest Air Pirate gang in the entirety of North America. Their leader is ruthless but honorable (if Lawful Evil can be called honorable).
Major Planes and ZeppelinsEdit
AIRPLANES AND AUTOGYROS
- Bell Valiant Mk II - Agile Speedster. Doesn't bring much dakka to the table, though.
- Curtiss-Wright J2 Fury - Fast, mainly used as an interceptor against Zeppelins. A very common pirate aircraft.
- Fairchild F611 Brigand - Air Bandit's favorite. Heavy, Fast, and should be painted Orky Red to go fastah.
- Ford Hoplite - Civilian Gyro. Armored like a tank, making it popular amongst militias.
- General Motors Minigyro - One of the first Commercial Gyros. Mobile sniping points more than anything.
- Grumman E-1C Avenger - Good first-strike interceptor, but lacks agility for prolonged and frontal engagements. Favored by the Empire State and rich nancy-boys, who like its cushy cockpit.
- Hughes Bloodhawk - Fast, Agile, considerably armed - and comes with a turbo option. Only problem is its miniscule armor. And terrible low-speed handling.
- Hughes Bulldog - Bees. That is all.
- Hughes P21-J Devastator - Dated but solid design. USSR has a seemingly infinite amount of those, instead of own aerial developments. An old Texan design created for the Texas-Mexican conflict. Extremely popular among pirates, and the personal bird of Designated Protagonist Nathan Zachary of the Fortune Hunters. It is entirely coincidental that the "hero bird" has an x-shaped aerofoil, fires rockets, and has a pusher prop. Really.
- Marquette PR-1 Defender - American Communists' main plane of choice. Used for interception and dogfighting, rather than its intended ground-attack role. Well, "intended" is perhaps too strong a word - designed by committee and built by Christian Commies. The AK-47 of Crimson Skies.
- Sanderson FB14 Vampire - Heavily armed and armored fighter. Slow and lacking in maneuverability, but is easily able to shrug off most enemy fire with impunity. An outdated Texan aircraft that's evaporating into pirate hands like water poured on a Houston street.
- William and Colt Peacemaker 370 - Able to focus on speed and maneuverability or heavy firepower, the Peacemaker is highly customizable and is popular amongst those who have the money to tweak it just right.
- Pandora - Zeppelin used by Fortune Hunters. Armed with multitude of machine guns of .30 and .50 calibers.
- Workers' Voyage - Soviet Moscow-class Zeppelin. External engines present a fragile target.
- Gorgons' Head - Medusas' Zeppelin. Poor design choice of external fuel tanks.
- Macchiavelli - Red Skulls' first Zeppelin. Stolen from Deseret and used to start a war between them and the People's Collective.