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Subject: Play Balance Issue? rss

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RIK FONTANA
United States
St. George
Utah
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Today finished my 3rd game in a year, and each time USA lost. In our three games, USA has lost on turns 6, 6, and 7. We are all experienced players; not great but not pushovers either.
All of us feel that too many things have to go just right for USA to win. Today when I lost, ALL my Reinforcement cards were able to be used, so I had luck there. It is terribly frustrating to see Invaders bring on 8 units + 8 units + 8 units and then finally on my turn I get to play two cards and one of them is worthless!!
Obviously we can house-rule the game or follow the play-balance suggestions (including what to do if USA is winning too often... huh? really??)

Maybe we are just not patriotic enough but not looking forward to the next game as I realize we'll have to fudge the rules to make it a proper competitive challenge for both sides....
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Dangerous Partners
United Kingdom
Swindon
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Play better.

The rulebooks for both versions have (the same) difficulty modifiers:

TO INCREASE DIFFICULTY FOR THE INVADERS
The following rules can be adjusted to favor the U.S. Player:
• Increase the number of city miniatures on the captured city track necessary to win.
• Instead of placing eight units during his Reinforcements Action, each Invader places fi ve units.
• The U.S. player starts the game with one or more laser miniatures already on the game board.


Check the forums, there are posts on tips. Here are some I found years back and have kept:

The great thing about being the US is turning it around and stuffing it to those invaders when all looks bleak.
Your absolute goals are:
1. Taking back cities so you get the extra cards. The cards are your weapons, and your friends. Do not forsake your friends, get as many as you can!!
2. Kill as many choice units as you can. The main thing to remember is that proper starting placement can make all of the difference. Since the invaders have a finite amount of units, killing the big boys will always help your cause.
The cities that you know you are going to lose in the beginning? Leave crappy men and mobile units there. Save your all important hover tanks, helicopters and bombers, and leave them in lynchpin cities such as Salt Lake, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Indianapolis. Each of these cities can either feed your front line with important troops, or be a sticking point in the invader's push.
Other than Salt Lake, forget about the West. Pull back your forces early and hope that you can get a card that will allow you to take a city back. And never waste laser shots in the West either. About the only time my laser shots hit a yellow piece is when they are making the Northern drive towards Minneapolis. Other than that, forget them.
Dedicate about 50-60% of your good troops towards the East, 30-35% to the South, and the rest to the West. The East is the most important, but if you totally ignore the South, he will eat you alive!
Always coordinate your laser shots with the grand strategy. If you are battling to retake a city, and somewhere else there is a bomber just waiting to be zapped, what do you do? Kill a unit in the city, of course. If he has five units in the city, and you shoot the most powerful one, then he only has four left, and that can really make a difference.
Don't forget that Partisans placed alone roll a D8 instead of a D6. Nice.
The key of course is to selectively pull back units out of cities and territory until you can mount a counter offensive and take the city back. Get your cards!!
With practice, you will learn when to retreat and when to make a stand. It's just that simple.

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Jon W
United States
Aurora
CO
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I'm not on solid ground with the new edition, but with the original game, the balance is tilted in favor of the USA. Essentially, never leave big targets to hit, but retain enough counterattacking force to retake cities. You have to take a few early "good unit" losses so that your reinforcement cards won't go to waste, but otherwise, fall back, and only counterattack if you can kill good units at high odds.
 
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Dangerous Partners
United Kingdom
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waddball wrote:
You have to take a few early "good unit" losses so that your reinforcement cards won't go to waste, ...

This I forgot to mention - it is very frustrating (game changing possibly) to get a couple of partisan cards early ony providing hoveranks or choppers that you can't use. Remember you are going to lose units any way so not a big problem losing good units early if you are then able to bring them back and not wate cards.
 
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Marcel van der pol
Netherlands
Leiden
Zuid-Holland
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Some strategic tips:

1) Be patient. The Invaders are in a hurry and if you manage to stall them long enough, you will win. They need to come to you, not the other way around. Never let the Invaders take territories two-areas deep.
2) Don't fight on the beaches. Retreat just far enough to be out of range of a big strike while being able to mount one yourself.
3) Use your mobility. As the USA, you have much more room to maneuver than the Invaders.
4) Take back cities whenever you can. Taking back a city will secure you an extra Reinforcement card, which in turn will enable you to take back more cities and slow down the Invaders.
5) Create good pockets of resistance. The area around Colorado Springs in particular is a hinge-point where the Southern and Western invader will meet. Do not let go of it.
6) Do NOT give any room to the Eastern Invader. He is the closest Invader to a large number of key cities that the USA cannot afford to loose. Playing badly against the Eastern Invader is the easiest way to loose with the USA.
7) Use your lasers well. Either use them to support attacks on cities OR take out the most mobile/frontline units that the Invader has. I usually try to fire at least one shot on the Eastern Invader's Bombers every turn.
8) Take the casualties. You may loose units along the way (good ones) but you will get them back. Each Invader unit destroyed is removed from the game permanently and the reinforcements only arrive at the coast.

I've found that the game is well balanced and turns 5-7 are the tipping point of the game. Before that, the game is not yet decided in anyone's favour unless the USA played badly.

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Marcel van der pol
Netherlands
Leiden
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waddball wrote:
I'm not on solid ground with the new edition, but with the original game, the balance is tilted in favor of the USA. Essentially, never leave big targets to hit, but retain enough counterattacking force to retake cities. You have to take a few early "good unit" losses so that your reinforcement cards won't go to waste, but otherwise, fall back, and only counterattack if you can kill good units at high odds.


Fantasy Flight Games have solved this by moving a few cities. The cities were moved closer to the Invaders so its easier to take them.

Secondly, the Mobile now has the ability to transport an infantry during the pre-combat movement phase; this does a lot to add maneuverability to the Invaders (it also benefits the USA but less compared to the Invaders).

These are the only two major changes to the game. There is also a variant in the box which allows the Invaders to draw Invader Cards (their variant of the Reinforcement Card of the USA) but to use them you reduce the amount of Reinforcements from 8 units to 5 units.
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Ron Glass
United States
Tampa
Florida
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Not sure exactly how this is happening? Like your group, we are older experienced players, and have played the old version many, many times, and the new at least a dozen. We found the old game tilted toward the US, as is the new one, just slightly less so.

There are 2 solid, and 1 borderline, players in our group that can do the fighting withdrawal, strategic defense plan with helo jump screening approach so well, that if they ever do lose, its usually turn 8 or later. And then only after a turn or 2 of the invaders getting to 18 cities, losing 1 or more, taking enough back, and maybe holding on.

It is always incredibly close, and way more often the invaders might get to 18, lose more than a few, and then not be able to get back to 18.

If this isn't happening, then the US player is either attacking too much, or defending too weakly. The Laser/bomber combo with a single ground attack from 1 area can eliminate any invader spot, even if it starts with the max capacity of 5, in any turn.

Just some thoughts
Ron

Oh, after using the Invader card option once, the cards were put away and never used again.
 
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RIK FONTANA
United States
St. George
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Thanks guys for the suggestions and ideas (altho in honesty most of them I feel we were doing already as USA).
Especially was happy to read that others felt the old version leaned a little more to USA. I had played it back then and my recollection was that Yes, it was a little easier for America.
 
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Marcel van der pol
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Leiden
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I personally feel that this version is 45/55 in favour of the USA. The balance is slightly off, but much less than the old version. You should get a very good fight when playing a good USA player. It is however easy to loose the game early with the USA.
 
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Jeff S
United States
New York
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I think the game is best played by only two players, play two games swapping sides and then compare overall results to see the two-game champ.
 
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Marcel van der pol
Netherlands
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Yes, but be advised that with only two players the game will likely take longer to finish.
 
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Robert Stetler
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marcelvdpol wrote:
I personally feel that this version is 45/55 in favour of the USA. The balance is slightly off, but much less than the old version. You should get a very good fight when playing a good USA player. It is however easy to loose the game early with the USA.


Against well coordinated, well experienced invader players the original version was slightly skewed to the invaders. Even discounting debate drawing tactics like circumventing cities to minimize partisan card draw, the number of reasonably takeable cities (outside the north-east core) is just high enough that invaders focusing on the Denver-Memphis line should achieve a better than even odds win rate. This based on personal experience over 20 years with dozens of opponents.

The new version IMO skews the ratio further that direction. I've played it twice, and each time found the lack of 2 initial units in Buffalo to be a critical hindrance in defense and retake options along the New England coast. The units repositioned into the south west was nearly worthless - the more vulnerable city targets, even worse. I managed, barely, to win both games as America but frankly it was all a matter of game experience - my opponents had played a half dozen games or less. Had they noticed and taken better advantage of weaknesses I clearly saw but could not cover, both games IMO would have been clear losses.
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Marcel van der pol
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I've played this version about 15 times so far; reasonably experienced but nothing major. Against 3 reasonably well coordinated invaders of about the same play level I would definitely give the USA a slight edge but nothing major. As I said, it is quite easy for the USA to lose the game early.

However, I don't have your 20 years of experience (I've played the MB version maybe 3-4 times). Besides changing the mobile unit the only other major change is the board (specifically: locations of cities). The extra city in the south west is a complete gift to the Invader; the american units have trouble even getting past turn 1.
 
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Dan Zachary
United States
Alexandria
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KGBRadioMoskow wrote:
marcelvdpol wrote:
I personally feel that this version is 45/55 in favour of the USA. The balance is slightly off, but much less than the old version. You should get a very good fight when playing a good USA player. It is however easy to loose the game early with the USA.


Against well coordinated, well experienced invader players the original version was slightly skewed to the invaders. Even discounting debate drawing tactics like circumventing cities to minimize partisan card draw, the number of reasonably takeable cities (outside the north-east core) is just high enough that invaders focusing on the Denver-Memphis line should achieve a better than even odds win rate. This based on personal experience over 20 years with dozens of opponents.

The new version IMO skews the ratio further that direction. I've played it twice, and each time found the lack of 2 initial units in Buffalo to be a critical hindrance in defense and retake options along the New England coast. The units repositioned into the south west was nearly worthless - the more vulnerable city targets, even worse. I managed, barely, to win both games as America but frankly it was all a matter of game experience - my opponents had played a half dozen games or less. Had they noticed and taken better advantage of weaknesses I clearly saw but could not cover, both games IMO would have been clear losses.


My admittingly intense soloing of FA brings my opinion in line with KGB.

In my first 25 plays, it was USA 15 to Invaders 10.

After 46 plays, its is USA 23 to Invaders 23. So, in the last 18 plays it is 8 to 13 against the USA.

So, for what it is worth:

Among beginning players it is probably harder for the USA to win.
Then, the play balance should tilt towards the USA as competent play plus the surprise factor of the cards kick in.

As the Invader learns how to "defend" against the USA's cards, the balance shifts back to the Invaders.
 
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Peter Mc
United States
Dunkirk
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I thought the original was slightly pro US but only after gaining tons of experience.

The new game seems wildly pro-invader. The changes to the cities and the cards really make a much bigger impact than I originally thought.

The first couple of (new edition) games we played it was very close and the invaders barely won. The more we played, the more easily the invaders won. So then I ran through it solo and tried wildly different US defenses and it just got worse, easier and easier invader wins.

I'd love to see an AAR with quality play and a US win.
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Jacob Williams
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
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The cards are optional... It's universally accept that the cards are uber power.
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Peter Mc
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I didn't know that thanks.

I wasn't clear...most of the time we didn't used the optional cards. It's been awhile since we gave up on it, so I can't recall all the details, but there was some wrinkle in the reinforcement rule that seemed to help the invader as well.

Anyway the city locations make 18 very easy imo.

The old game, whatever it's flaws, had a nice balance between fighting and movement (and for the US, retreating at just the right pace).

The new game forces battles too much, and the US loses because they are outnumbered but can't retreat due to the changes in the cities and their locations.
 
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Jacob Williams
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You'd definitely have to give more specifics before I could agree with what you are saying...

I've heard arguments go both ways on this game. At the heart of it is that people naturally assume asymmetrical games are inherently unbalanced. I'm not saying that's true or not, just an observation.
 
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Peter Mc
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It's OK to disagree of course--I'm not arguing absolutes but stating what I and some opponents found during our play.

I don't know how asymmetry necessarily factors into it--an asymmetrical game can be balanced or imbalanced.

Based upon a couple dozen FTF and solo games of the FFG version, I never once saw a US win, so what I am saying is the game is imbalanced in our play to the point where we couldn't change the outcome. I won as the US player in the older game, enough so that I was never worried about balance there.

That's why I asked to see an AAR of a well played game where the US won, so I could learn what I don't know. So far I've never seen such a thing...or a detailed description of US play--not even a single list of the cities the US would hold to win (among the obviously contestable ones).

In our games we tried alot of different approaches--varying degrees of retreats vs. fighting, going heavy or light in different sectors, etc. None of it worked.

(edited typo/clarity)
 
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Dan Zachary
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Alexandria
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Hi,

This version of the game is imbalanced. This observation is based upon many, many solo plays.

The balance seems to addressed by increasing the number of cities the Invaders have to capture to 19, which is the simplest "fix."
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Marcus
Canada
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Ontario
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I don't have enough play experience to judge play balance, but the new FFG gives the Western invader "more to do" and improves the overall game experience for all players, so for me, I prefer playing on the FFG map (but using the MB edition plastic pieces!).

There are many variant rules out there to improve play balance towards one side or the other, so not a huge issue imo.
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Christian Kalk
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Another solution...at least in a 4-player game...is to use the Solo Winner rule...encourage a bit of competition amongst the invaders (since only one player can win) which may be just enough for the US to eke out a victory.
 
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