Daring Eagle (2003)

7 May

IMG_2025Ever since the armed forces became all-volunteer in the 1970s, there have been many attempts to try and make joining the military an attractive career option. We’ve all seen the super slick Marines commercials, the Army put out a video game (America’s Army), the Navy had the Village People… ok, maybe not. When I first came across Daring Eagle, and it’s Army National Guard logo on the front, I thought I had a found a board game recruitment tool. It was probably going to be cheaply made, it was going to be SUPER rah-rah, and it was probably going to play poorly…I mean, we’ve seen the government make a game before, and that didn’t go well. Here’s what I didn’t expect: I didn’t expect this to NOT be a recruitment tool (in the traditional sense), and I didn’t expect a decent game.

Daring Eagle isn’t going to win awards for originality. It’s a very simple 2-4 player chess-like game. Each player starts the game with a number of small Brigades and larger Divisions under their control.  Brigades can move up to three spaces, however they only have a strength of 5 when battling. Divisions can only move 2 spaces, but have a 15 power in battle. Players each have a small “home” area where those pieces can be placed. They can be placed in any configuration desired. The board is double-sided. On the desert side (shown below) there are several preset spots for defensive encampments which block movement, and if you’re placed right, protects your troops from being attacked. The other side doesn’t have these pre-marked spaces, but the rules say players should seed some wherever they wish. This makes the setup much more strategic, and can make the game much harder. Players also get a hand of three action cards. These cards can do everything from give you extra moves, to boosts in battle.

IMG_2033

On a turn, a player can move one of his / her pieces, and play as many action cards as they wish. That’s about it. Again, brigades can move three spaces – divisions only two, including diagonals. If a piece runs into a defensive marker, they must stop moving. If they land on an opposing piece, then a battle ensues. Battling is super simple. Remember, each piece has an innate power (brigades = 5, divisions = 15) so you simply add that number to any power bonus (or “Combat Resource”) cards that get played. The winner takes the loser’s piece off the board and into a victory pile. In a four-player game, the first player to capture 5 pieces wins. That’s basically all there is to the game. I don’t recommend playing this game with 3 players, unless you are teaching a class on the pincer maneuver. Whoever plays the middle space WILL lose, and lose badly.

IMG_2035Despite the simple nature, I kind of like this game. For one thing, the game is very well produced. The cards are especially nice. They have a good feel, and the text is very clear, though it is notable that the actual game text is actually smaller than the flavor text. The brigade and division pieces are rather generic, but they are chunky cardboard and easy to tell apart even from a distance.

The cards add a bit of randomness to what is a pretty dry base game. I will say the theme feels very pasted on…which does strike me as odd in a game specifically made by the National Guard FOR the National Guard. This is a game where you are playing as the leader of an Army National Guard battalion, and so are all the other players. So you are both fighting FOR and AGAINST the National Guard in this game. A bit weird, but the game itself is a solid game, even with that thematic misstep.

IMG_2043The most interesting thing about this game may just be how this game was distributed. As I said earlier, my understand for the 3-4 years I’ve owned this game is that it was made as some kind of recruiting tool for the National Guard. Perhaps something handed out at assemblies, events, or recruitment centers. The back of the box especially lead me to that conclusion.

IMG_2045However, doing a bit more digging earlier today, I discovered a more interesting story. Apparently, in the early 2000s, the National Guard made these kits called “Future Soldier Footlocker Kits”. These kits were distributed to the young children of those deployed in Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom. Not only did these kits include the Daring Eagle board game, but they had a Mission Command card game, a comic book, several packs of National Guard trading cards, among other items. These kits were designed as a way to give the children some connection to the job that his or her parent was doing for the country.

 

Photo comes from the Strong Museum

Of course, being the collector I am, I now want one of these kits.

I am curious, though, how is it that so many copies of Daring Eagle seem to be around (I’ve started to see it all over the place) but so few of the card game, or the kits as a whole? I’m very curious as to how many of these Footlocker kits were actually made and distributed. Also, who actually designed and/or printed this game? While it doesn’t reinvent any wheels, there is a level of care and obvious knowledge of games that goes beyond what I would normally expect for a product like this.

Next time, if all goes well, I will be going back to the 1980s…and share the story of one of my first loves, the local programming of Superstation 9 – WWOR out of Seacaucus, New Jersey.

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4 Responses to “Daring Eagle (2003)”

  1. thebestwes August 8, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

    I totally got one of these at the 2005 National Boy Scout Jamboree. This was at Fort AP Hill. They gave out a couple thousand at least. There were 30,000 kids there and -everyone- seemed to have one, probably because they were free and in the area where you could climb inside an Abrams tank (which was pretty popular). Not sure how big a proportion of the total number that was, but I’d guess it is still a spastically significant number of the games in circulation.

    • thebestwes August 8, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

      *statistically significant

      • scooterb23 August 16, 2015 at 11:55 am #

        I apologize for taking so long to respond, I’ve been battling some health issues of late. Thanks very much for that info. It would be interesting to know how many of these games are truly out there.

  2. charles cook January 30, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    I have one complete set

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