Tuesday, March 9, 2021



So, now having had a chance to sort through what I have of the various editions of DAWN PATROL (a.k.a. FIGHT IN THE SKY), the results are more chaotic than I expected and far more interesting. 

First, here's a listing of all the editions of the game, as redacted from game designer Mike Carr's account on  the F.I.T.S. fan club's website:

1st edition (1968). 25 copies

2nd edition. 50 copies

3rd edition. 100 copies

These first three editions (which may have been less 'editions' and more revised printings) consisted as "photocopied rules, a handful of playing charts, and some crudely printed maneuver cards. Players were required to make their own playing pieces and to create their own square grid, but no one seemed to mind too much in those days" *

4th edition (1972). Guidon Games. 1,000 copies. professionally printed. came in a box and included "cardboard-mounted aircraft playing pieces". Later reprinted, "without the box, packaged in a large envelope".

5th edition (1975). TSR. blue box, blank bottom. boxtop printed by Patch Press in Beloit. "new and expanded". print run: unknown, but mention is made of "the first 1000 copies".  no sku# on boxtop.

6th edition (1979). TSR. red box. no mention of print run. sku#7003

7th edition (1982). RENAMED 'DAWN PATROL'. TSR. an 'upgrade . . . with more of a role-playing emphasis' 'expanded rules'. "sales peaked at over 20,000 copies sold in 1983"**. 'Several years later . . . went out of print', though still available through the Mail Order Hobby Shop 'for several years' thereafter. sku#7008. This is the version of the game most people know.

8th edition: announced as forthcoming in 2018 (reverting to original title) but so far as I can tell this "new, expanded and deluxe 8th Edition" it has yet to appear.

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Now, with that for background, my bits and pieces make a lot more sense.

First off I have the 40-page 7th edition (DAWN PATROL) rulebook with its accompanying uncut card sheets. I got this from my friend Slade on Wend. November 1993.

Second I have the complete boxed set of this edition, again from Slade, this time on June 7th 1994. This includes the boxtop and bottom, rulebook and cardsheets, two copies of the attractive poster-sized mapsheet, two sets of colorful airplane counters (one German, one Allied) [four sheets in all, unpunched], and my character sheet from the one and only time I played the game. 

My memory says that this was at a GenCon about mid-way through my '91-'96 stint at TSR, but the evidence of the character sheet says otherwise: it was on Friday January 7th 1994. I was playing Gustav Von Dine, a rank novice flying his Albatros D III that April 1917 morning. The game lasted just five rounds before my character went into a dive and escaped whatever his team encountered that day, exiting the game with an experience total of Missions: 1; Kills: 0. I guess this was a case of 'quit while you're ahead'

Third I have a copy of the red box 6th edition still in the original shrinkwrap. I admit I'm curious but since I'm looking at these old games preparatory to getting rid of them it seems a bad idea to open it up after all these years. Both this and the next item I got in the big giveaway at WotC (hence sometime between late 1997 and mid-2001) when the company decided to dump multiple copies of long out of print games, said to have been stored at Moses Lake, kept all those years by the legal team in case they might need to place a copy in evidence for one of TSR's endemic lawsuits. 

Fourth I have the blue box 5th edition -- except that its contents don't seem to fit what little I know about F.I.T.S. 5th edition. 

--two copies of the 15 page photocopy rules (both the same, so far as I can tell on a quick skim).


--a mailer containing a deck of maneuver cards (blank on one side) held together with old rubber bands.

--a photocopy sheet of advice  about playing the game from Mike Carr,  the designer.

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The most interesting thing about this fifth edition/blue box's contents is that they don't seem to correspond to what we would expect from the information above. The fifth edition came with a printed box and I wd assume a printed rulebook inside. Certainly the fourth edition had been professionally printed and it wd be odd to have backslided and reverted to the poor quality photocopy ruleset. Instead the photocopy ruleset seems to belong to the early (first, second, third) printings, which all three together totaled only 175 copies. 

But it's the mailer that's really interesting. Addressed to 





with a return address of 


945 W. HOYT





The oversized envelope also has a meticulous drawing of a SPAD XIII and the back a sort of copyright statement: "ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY / M. CARR AND WGIG "

The postmark is hard to read but seems to be April 1968. Certainly the stamps (six 6-cent Roosevelts) date from 1968, not 1975, the date of the blue box it was stuffed in.

Thus this blue box's contents seem not to be the printed rules of 5th edition nor the mailer used in reprintings of the 4th (see above) but rather date back to an earlier era of the game.  

We do know that Gygax was impressed by the game in its earliest form and that Carr made the trip from Minnesota to run it at the first GenCon -- which took place in 1968, the date of the postmarks. 

 I think this mailer once held Gygax's copy of the original F.I.T.S. But it wd take a lot more work, by someone more expert with this game than myself, to prove whether the cards and rulebooks and reference sheets found with it belong to the same earliest era.

---John R.

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*shades of DOCTOR LUCKY, except that Carr seems to have beaten James Earnest by a few decades.

**I assume this means in 1983 alone. Clearly DAWN PATROL benefited from the TSR boom of the early '80s


Clive Shergold said...

The first footnote appears to be an orphan.

John D. Rateliff said...

Thanks for pointing out the slip, Clive. I've gone in and restored the missing asterisk, which shd now appear in is proper place.