After literally decades of video gaming, I recently decided to return to board gaming. Visiting my childhood home, rummaging through the basement I came across Fortress America and Shogun!
New to BGG, I'm happy to see homage still paid to this title. This is not a review, its been too long since I played. This is more of a collection of thoughts, reflections, and memories of my younger years. I never really forgotten I had this game. But it had been neglected, subject to darkness while I picked up and moved twice to another state while bringing the A&A 2nd version with me. I opened the box, examined the pieces, and re-read the rules.
Enticement and Prophecy
The rule's prologue is as prophetic as it is paranoid. Terrorism, international isolationism, clean energy independence, global animosity! The image of Saddam Hussein is as coincidental or as Nostradamus you can get by with luck. I can gladly say the two biggest influences getting this game was a) I'm a fan of Axis and Allies and b) Red Dawn. Thrown in some cold-war paranoia of the time and it was too good to pass up.
The commercial influence of Axis & Allies
I was and still am a big fan of A&A. Theme aside, the publisher "Hasbro" still carried weight with me then. Put it in a similar sized box with similar colors and artwork and with rules somewhat close to A&A and they'll have a customer. Resisting a review of what I think of "Axis", put up a game with cardboard map, plastic military minis, and some dice and I'm sold!
Theme differences from AA
While AA is a play of revisionist history, FA is a play of revisionist future. Both have their "what ifs". While "Axis" answers that with each player's strategy, it is the theme of FA ends there and concentrates on mechanics.
To me, "balanced" doesn't mean 50/50 but achieving a level of equity that doesn't tip the scale. (cliche alert) AA isn't 50/50, but pieces are carefully designed in the opening to give Axis players hope, fun, and replay value. FA is almost a beat the clock game. The invaders start strong only to become weak once reinforcements deplete while America starts weak and grows stronger with each round as best symbolized by the laser satellite towers of destruction. This alone separates the game from an incorrect expectation of an AA game but with a different map.
Though seemingly trivial, AA has players move pieces into enemy territory to declare battle while FA declares adjacent territories. This modest difference alters or accommodates FA use of move phases. While AA had Combat and Non-combat move phases, FA has "First" and "Second" phases. The concept between the two games are not necessarily identical. The most notable difference was the 5 unit per space rule. Very contradictory to A&A, this may have much to do with game design. There are no tokens or chips in FA. This design is found in Shogun as well. What is new and forward thinking was the use of event or partisan cards. Sacrilege in some worlds of AA, it has modest use here and offering another method of luck and excitement without the dice. Another important element is supply lines which effects how copters are deployed
The non-linear, invisible hourglass dripping sands of hope from the invaders as America grows stronger. Its 60 versus 60 at the start with the invaders having a considerable reinforcements. The balance is an illusion as the game begins but you can feel the curve as time favors America. That tension, with the help of my favorite element the lasers, brings the fun in gaming.
What didn't work
Minor, minor gripe. The resource territories didn't bring anything to the game other than victory points among the invading team. Our group was never fanatical to attack each other to get more points between them. Like AA, it was about which side wins.
Looking back, way back the game is about gobbling cities. Not too different from AA, however with FA it was more mechanical. There is no ocean to cross or necessarily a grand strategy. (That's my AA-centricism again). Perhaps, its about scale.
Enjoyment and re-playability
In short, this game did not replace AA. I consider it an enjoyable splinter. Under another publisher, I would have surely not have it. While AA has evolved, grown, spun-off, FA has not. Its progressive theme is something not easily surfacing in a mainstream game, let alone under the banner of "Milton Bradley" and found in a local Toys R Us.
This is a museum grade game and I wouldn't sell off the individual parts and pieces. Having this game in your hands is having history in your hands.
Thanks for reading and reliving my late teen years with me. Now, I'm off to think about what to write about Shogun. (I know it by no other name)
Edits: Credited Milton Bradly instead of Hasbro.
- Last edited Tue Feb 8, 2011 9:03 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Feb 8, 2011 2:52 am
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Ahhh....my misspent youth...
Play the game again and you will find it a really great game. I mean, I know that you like the game, I'm not saying that. I'm saying this game is worthy of being played. I enjoy it way more than AA.
You do know that you can even PLAY this online now? If you wanted a "combo" for BOTH, then try out Superpowers