Although I was super excited to find a copy of Zaxxon at the Quad City Symphony’s annual Second Fiddle Tag Sale, I was even more elated to score a nearly-new example of Milton Bradley’s Screaming Eagles board game. I remember seeing television commercials for it during my second semester in college in 1987, and had secretly hoped that “Santa” would bring a copy at Christmas. That jerk didn’t…
Fast-forward 30+ years and I now had a like-new copy in my hands! The asking price of only $3 made it an instant-buy and it was definitely the cream-of-the-crop of the six games we picked up that day. It’s also a good example of the progression of games from a typical roll-and-move style like Monopoly or Trouble, to more strategic fare where you must make critical movement decisions without knowing what your opponent is doing and before actually making the move!
Screaming Eagles is a board game that tries to simulate modern air-to-air combat fought by jet planes. While advertised for 2-4 players, in reality it is a 2-player game. Each side mans a squadron of two planes, so if playing with additional players, they simply split the team’s responsibilities and control one of the planes.
After setting the large board in the middle of the play area, each team places their planes in the designated starting spaces. They also receive two color matched sets of Command Cards and Battle Boards and a number of pegs for tracking weaponry and damage. The black and red dice are placed next to the board within reach of both players and the person manning the blue team will act as first player in the first round.
At the beginning of every round in Screaming Eagles, all players choose a Command Card for each plane and place it face-down on the matching space on the board. In turn order, each team reveals the card for the plane they wish to move and rolls the indicated dice to determine how far it will travel. The plane moves in the direction shown on the card (straight, bank left or bank right) and travels until it reaches the edge of the board.
If additional movement spaces are left, it wraps to the opposite side of the board, entering in the space with the same number listed on the space it left. Additionally, either before or after moving, you may elect to fire at the enemy!
In order to shoot at the other team, the target plane must be in your plane’s cone of fire. This is a forward-looking area that reaches the edge of the board, but does not wrap. Declare your target and which weapon you are using (missile or cannon) and remove the associated peg for that weapon from the plane’s Battle Board. Missiles can fly farther (roll 3 or 4 red dice depending if medium or long range, respectively) and travel in curves, while cannons may only fire in a straight line (roll 2 red dice). The dice result is the distance your shot traveled, and if the enemy plane is within range, roll all four black dice to determine the area of the plane you hit.
A result of four or twelve (the most difficult) means you hit the cockpit or fuel tank, downing the plane immediately. A five or six hits the tail section, a ten or eleven the engine and a seven, eight or nine hits the wings. Your opponent marks the damage to the section on their Battle Board and if they receive two total hits to either the tail section or engine, or four hits to the wings, the plane is shot down and removed from the game.
Each plane has two flares that can be dropped to ward of missile attacks. Before the attacker rolls, the defender may elect to use one by removing their peg from the Battle Board. This negates the highest rolled result, making the attacker’s overall range much less. These can only be used against missiles – cannons aren’t tricked by these flares!
If you run out of ammunition, all is not lost. On your next turn you may reload one cannon after you move (but cannot fire this turn). You can then fire before or after your move on your next turn! Players take turns being the start team for the round until one plane is shot down. After that, the team with the most planes still flying is the first player for subsequent rounds. If both teams have one plane downed, the team that shot down the last plane gains and keeps first player position. The first team to shoot down both of their opponent’s planes wins Screaming Eagles!
You can find copies of Screaming Eagles on eBay for very reasonable prices (around $20). While not particularly rare, it’s popularity keeps it from showing up at traditional thrift stores (at least complete ones). Make sure any copy you’re looking at has the complete inventory of 4 red dice, 4 black dice, 4 Battle Boards, 36 Command Cards, 4 plastic planes with stands and 84 colored pegs!
What is your favorite military-styled game?