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Subject: Sparky Speaks: Fortress America (2nd Edition) rss

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Shawn Sparks
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Pictured: Round 1 of a 4 player game.

Fortress America (2nd Edition) is a futuristic sci-fi themed wargame. If you would like to read a general description of how the game is played please see the OVERVIEW section below. If you would simply like to read my PROS & CONS along with my FINAL THOUGHTS you can checkout those topics near the bottom of this post.

OVERVIEW
This game can be played by 2 to 4 players, but one of those has to be America while the remaining players control the 3 Invaders. The game is played over a maximum of 10 rounds, with each round consisting of 8 phases for each army. The Invaders win if at the end of any given round they control 18 American cities. America wins if they can reach the end of the 10th round (without losing 18 cities) or if all of the Invaders armies are destroyed (or the Invaders surrender).

Each army controls 3 types of units; Foot Units, Mechanized Units, and Air Units. In addition, the American army controls Lasers and Partisans, which are not available to the Invaders. These units roll varying types of dice ranging from a d6 to a d10 according to their type. With the exception of the Laser die (which uses a standard d10 and hits on a 5+), these dice have custom symbols that define whether an army hits, scores a combined arms hit, retreats/disengages, or misses.

Each round the armies activate in a defined order performing all of their phases before the next army takes their turn. The turn order is as follows; Western Invader (yellow), Southern Invader (blue), Eastern Invader (red), and America (green).

The 8 phases consist of the following:
1. Reinforcements. Invaders place 8 units in their starting area and America places 1 Laser in a U.S. controlled city. America also plays 2 Partisan cards plus any bonus cards gained for recapturing a city.
2. Declare Battles. The player chooses the territories they plan to attack.
3. Maneuvers. Players move their units; in some instances this may be to position them for an invasion. Each unit has a set movement value.
4. Fire Lasers. America fires its Lasers (Invaders do not take this action).
5. Combat. Resolve all declared battles. The defender will roll dice first according the type of units they are defending with. It should be noted that destroyed units are removed from play immediately. This gives the defender an advantage by trying to eliminate invading units before they roll. Any invading units that remain then roll dice according the type of units they are defending with. Both sides only roll dice for their units one time, whether or not the invasion was a success.
6. Invasion. Players can move their units again to secure a newly declared territory, to reinforce a weakened area, or to simply advance your forces.
7. Supply Check. Each Invading army must have a controlled supply line back to their starting area. Any unit cut off from supplies is destroyed and removed from the game.
8. Capture Territories. Players take control of any territory they successfully claimed in the invasion phase. This is done by placing a corresponding control marker on the board.

There are some other rules about using Combined Arms (attacking with one of each type of unit) when attacking mountain or city territories. Basically it is much more difficult to hit if the invading army doesn’t use Combined Arms when attacking these territories.

Additionally there are some rules about Scouting (claiming unoccupied territories), Transporting foot units, and Bombing. All of those play a part in the game, but by title alone they are somewhat self explanatory.

So in general that is how the game is played. Here are my PROS & CONS.

PROS:
• The rulebook is kind of big, but it’s concise and detailed without being complicated. They provide plenty of examples with illustrations and keynotes. Each player also has their own stat sheet in front of them for quick reference. These small stat sheets have everything you need on them to play the game without ever opening the rulebook.
• The game board is gorgeous and the artwork is top notch for a game of this type. By that I mean there are not any portraits of characters or anything like that, but more of a military style artwork. Looks great!
• For its weight this wargame plays fairly quick and streamlined. Outside of games like Risk, I don’t know if there is a faster playing wargame. If there is I haven’t played it yet.
• The strategy level for this game can be anywhere from simple to intense. You don’t have to be a chess champion to play this game; you can go with a simple strategy and do just fine (although I would suggest you play one of the Invading forces). On the other hand, you can form some strong strategic ideas and have a lot of fun pursuing them as well.
• The component quality is fantastic. The plastic military pieces are super cool and the high contrast in colors makes spotting them on the game board very easy. The card quality is very good as well.

CONS:
• This game has a luck factor since it uses dice. That doesn’t bother me at all, but I want to point this out since I know some folks consider that a negative. That said, you can sort of counter the luck factor if you attack with the right type of units or simple try to overwhelm your opponent with sheer volume.
• I love playing America, but early in the game there can be a real sense of impending doom if you choose to play them. If you plan well, and the dice are not behaving too badly, the tide will begin to shift sometime after round 5 or 6. What I am saying is that the most experienced player or the most strategic player should probably play America. I’m not saying it’s a necessity, but if you play America you cannot be foolish with your strategy.
• Unlike other wargames this game does not require you to move your pieces into a territory when attacking it. I know that seems minor, but since you don’t push your units into a battlefield you have to be real careful when identifying your attacking units. This isn’t too much of problem until you get into very large invasions. In those circumstances I suggest you use a sheet of paper to write down exactly what you are invading with.
• This is exactly the type of game where certain players can be subject to AP (action paralysis). There are a lot of decisions to be made, so if you play this game with an AP prone player I would strongly suggest that you tell them to think about their turn well in advance. In a 4 player game there is plenty of time for each player to think about what they want to do, so in that instance it shouldn’t be problem. I would not suggest playing a 2 player game with somebody who is AP prone. If you do, it could end up taking you 6-8 hours to play this game.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
This game has a lot of similarities with other wargames I like such as Conquest of Nerath and Axis & Allies. I would say it plays best with 4 players, but I’ve even played it by myself and had fun. So if you enjoy wargames like the ones I mentioned above, then I would strongly suggest you try this game. It’s fantastic and plays much faster than some of those other titles. Using the BGG rating guide I’m giving Fortress America (2nd Edition) a high score of 8.5 out of 10 with a medium weight of 3.
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Brian Morris
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2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan
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Nice review. A real gem of a game in my opinion. Playing America against three experienced players can be an intense experience. It can also be very mentally draining because as America you really have no down time. You're constantly engaged. Winning though as America can be very satisfying. I've had some amazing games of this over the years.

I still have my original copy from the 80s and it still manages to hit the table. Most recently we played it with a friend and his young teenage son. It was his son's first wargame and I think it's a great game to introduce people to the wargaming hobby as they can team up with a more experienced player on the invader side.

My only real beef with the new edition is the dropping of Kansas City from the map. There will be no forgiveness for that here in KC!
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mrbeankc wrote:
Nice review. A real gem of a game in my opinion. Playing America against three experienced players can be an intense experience. It can also be very mentally draining because as America you really have no down time. You're constantly engaged. Winning though as America can be very satisfying. I've had some amazing games of this over the years.

I still have my original copy from the 80s and it still manages to hit the table. Most recently we played it with a friend and his young teenage son. It was his son's first wargame and I think it's a great game to introduce people to the wargaming hobby as they can team up with a more experienced player on the invader side.

My only real beef with the new edition is the dropping of Kansas City from the map. There will be no forgiveness for that here in KC!


I knew something was missing! No KC, someone must not like Bar B-Q!
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Ryan Hanson
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Thanks for the review. It's interesting this game has been getting a spate of reviews in the last few months. It really is an under appreciated game, sure it has its issues but its a blast to play with the right folks.
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Andy Pickard
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Yeah, I love the game, and own the original, but did not buy the reprint mainly because they took KC off. Also, next time you plan to get it to the table and need a player, let me know.
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Shawn Sparks
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I was kind of surprised how much I enjoy this game. I'm a long time fan of A&A and if I'm being honest I never thought Fortress America would compare to a game of that magnitude. Due to its play time (which is about 2-3 hours for an experienced table) I actually enjoy playing Fortress America more than A&A. Never thought I would say that.
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Brian Morris
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Shawn I think FA is a superior game to Axis and Allies or at least the original A&A. I really like the new 1940 Pacific and Europe second editions though.

This new edition has very few significant changes from the original. The FF edition is fundamentally still the same game as the 1986 version. You really can't say that about to many 80s era reprints.

One nice thing about FA is that it's almost three different games. The west is a sprint. It's trying to get your tanks and mobile infantry across the Rockies into the heartland as fast as you can. The south is a game of maneuver. The east is a classic slug fest. Thus the game plays significantly different for each and every player be they west, south, east or America.
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