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Subject: Balance skewed toward Germany? rss

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James Cox
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I was reading about the opening of Antwerp. Specifically how the Allies captured the quays intact but couldn't use it because they neglected clearing the Scheldt Estuary for over a month. The article compared/contrasted all the piddly ports taken to date vis-a-vis the potential of Antwerp; the other large French ports were never used either through not being taken until late-war or because being demolished by Jerry before the allies could grab em.

That got me thinking about history and about this game...

Historically, the Allies managed to push through Europe on pretty much just the one Mulberry and a sparse bunch of what in this game would be just 1-, 2-, or 3-sized ports. In this game though, I can't imagine the allies succeeding on only that paucity of Norman/Calais ports plus maybe the one big one down south a month or two later. Seems like to generate the step levels and combat factors necessary in this game's mechanics (e.g. mandatory combat adjacent and odds columns) you'd be forced to get some big (and early!) Brittany/Cotentin ports in order to win.

Is my assessment off or is this game thus skewed toward the German?
 
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Brian Herr
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That's really two separate questions. Yes, unless the German plays really poorly, the Allies will need some other big ports to win. That does not mean the game is skewed toward Germany, just that it likely won't play out strictly per history. In that same vein, in FE, the Siegfried Line is a bear to crack if decently occupied, and the Rhine is more of a minor nuisance. In history, the exact opposite is true.
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Bill Eldard
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I was thumbing through the rules to Paul Koenig's Fortress Europe, where the designer explained that from his experience as a GM, the Germans won 90% of the FE games in tournaments, and that his design (a reworking of FE) achieves balance. As I recall, one of the changes was that one Mulberry continues to act as designed in the FE rules, but the second functions more like a port (i.e., it can't be destroyed by weather).

He also increased the stacking of the invading units from two to three. There were some other changes, but I can't recall them.

Questions:

1) Is there an imbalance toward the Germans?

2) Would the changes above mitigate a German advantage?

3) Would it make sense to merely reduce the number of victory cities (red stars) needed for an Allied win? Could that number be negotiable to bidding -- say, the player bidding the higher number gets to play the Allies.
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Brian Herr
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Eldard wrote:
... one Mulberry continues to act as designed in the FE rules, but the second functions more like a port (i.e., it can't be destroyed by weather).

He also increased the stacking of the invading units from two to three. There were some other changes, but I can't recall them.
Does he give a historical reasoning behind the change, or is this strictly a game tweak for balance?
Eldard wrote:
1) Is there an imbalance toward the Germans?
From my own admittedly non-tournament experience, inexperienced play on both sides favors the Allies, while experienced play on both sides pushes the balance maybe toward the Germans, but not by a 90/10 ratio - perhaps 60/40.
Eldard wrote:
2) Would the changes above mitigate a German advantage?
Given the German advantage he postulates of 90%, I have to say no.
Eldard wrote:
3) Would it make sense to merely reduce the number of victory cities (red stars) needed for an Allied win? Could that number be negotiable to bidding -- say, the player bidding the higher number gets to play the Allies.
That's certainly an option, and I like the bidding mechanism, but with only 5 starred cities in Germany, it would likely reach a "standard" bid very quickly, thus diminishing it's effectiveness. Perhaps the ending date would be a better way to bid?
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Bill Eldard
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OldPhartWargamer wrote:
Eldard wrote:
... one Mulberry continues to act as designed in the FE rules, but the second functions more like a port (i.e., it can't be destroyed by weather).

He also increased the stacking of the invading units from two to three. There were some other changes, but I can't recall them.
Does he give a historical reasoning behind the change, or is this strictly a game tweak for balance?
Eldard wrote:
1) Is there an imbalance toward the Germans?
From my own admittedly non-tournament experience, inexperienced play on both sides favors the Allies, while experienced play on both sides pushes the balance maybe toward the Germans, but not by a 90/10 ratio - perhaps 60/40.
Eldard wrote:
2) Would the changes above mitigate a German advantage?
Given the German advantage he postulates of 90%, I have to say no.
Eldard wrote:
3) Would it make sense to merely reduce the number of victory cities (red stars) needed for an Allied win? Could that number be negotiable to bidding -- say, the player bidding the higher number gets to play the Allies.
That's certainly an option, and I like the bidding mechanism, but with only 5 starred cities in Germany, it would likely reach a "standard" bid very quickly, thus diminishing it's effectiveness. Perhaps the ending date would be a better way to bid?

The changes he made were strictly for game balance, and he claims that through playtesting, they worked.

I haven't played FE in many years, but I seem to recall that it was very much dependent on the players' skills, which would lead me to believe that it's more balanced than his experience.

I almost bought an unpunched copy of Paul Koenig's Fortress Europe the other day for $15, but I didn't off because the counter values and map terrain are unchanged (or appeared to be) from FE, so I figured that if there is an imbalance, a few rules changes would be all that was necessary.
 
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Vito Pentassuglia
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Eldard wrote:

I haven't played FE in many years, but I seem to recall that it was very much dependent on the players' skills, which would lead me to believe that it's more balanced than his experience.


I agree.
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