Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Fortress America

I am from the last generation that remembered the threat of the Soviet Union. When the movie Red Dawn came out, there was a part of us that identified with the theme…that the United States might actually be invaded at some point. In the midst of this, Milton Bradley released Fortress America. The game was cool - the invasion of the United States and the US struggling to hold the invaders at bay. It was made even more eerie when the box had a picture of Saddam Hussain and the World Trade Center towers on it.

Of course political correctness required them to reissue the game sans the artwork.  But the end of the Cold War seemed to seal the fate of this game, exiling it to eBay. Back in the day I played it a few times and enjoyed it. It had a good feel to it. Well, this year, Fantasy Flight Games re-released the game. Needless to say it was one of my first purchases at GenCon this year.

The game revolves around a simple concept. The US is being invaded. Each turn the invaders penetrate deeper into the country. The US is deploying a laser defense system that can knock out game pieces anywhere on the map. Each turn, the US gets an additional one of these. By about turn 6-7, these pieces can devastate the invaders, holding them at bay. So it's a race of sorts, knock the US out of the game or by turn eight or so you are getting blasted.

A few good changes have been implemented from the old Milton Bradley game. First, the game components are much better. Secondly, the invaders now have cards they obtain in the course of play that can help tip the odds. One card in particular, allows a player holding Colorado Springs to negate the lasers for one turn. This can turn a game of annihilation into one where there's a last minute hope for the invasion forces.

The US gets hit on three fronts; east, west and south. The east coast becomes a slugfest for DC (useful because it allows good access to the interior) or New York. The southern invader needs to decide is it a straight shot up the Mississippi or a swing into the southern states. The western invader has those pesky Rocky Mountains which forces a drive either along the northern edge of the US towards Chicago, or towards the great plains. The invaders can establish footholds deeper in the US giving them landing zones for reinforcements that get them into the fight sooner. Strategy-wise, there's a lot of nuances here that makes the game fun and challenging.

The game can be played with two players or four (one for each invasion corridor plus the US)
The US player relies on partisans which can wreck havoc and a wicked defense to buy time for more laser batteries to be deployed. The invaders have a steady stream of reinforcements but with each turn, their losses mount due to the laser batteries.
The units include bombers - which can fly deep for penetrating attacks, infantry/partisans, Mobile (APC's) which allow for transport of troops (important if you are the west coast invader), hovertanks, cities, and laser batteries.

The cards make the game, they give it flavor and can provide some interesting circumstances for both sides. You have things like The NRA organizes a rebel training camp in the Rockies or Washington is Burning! These events/cards can give you new unexpected reinforcements or can sway the course of battles.

Combat is simplistic - almost ala Axis and Allies. Hey, if you are looking or a 'historically accurate' game look somewhere else. Fantasy Flight walks the line between a detailed wargame and a beer and pretzel's game.

This game really took me back to the old version and I'm glad this one is out. My rating - five stars out of five. Time to invade America! "Wolverines!!"  


  1. The cards make the game, they give it flavor and can provide some interesting circumstances for both sides.

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