Gameday First Play – Fortress America

Posted on by Jesta

This wasn’t a game I was interested in until I heard an interview with designer Michael Gray on the Ludology Podcast.

It just so happens 2 days later I was invited to a friends house to play it.

In Fortress America, the United States must defend itself from three deadly invading armies: the Asian People’s Alliance from the West, the Central American Federation from the South, and the Euro-Socialist Pact from the East. Players take on either the role of the United States, struggling to protect itself from foreign threat, or the role of one or more of the invading armies, fighting battle after battle to acquire important territories.

As the blurb says this is a ‘3 vs 1’ game with the 1 being America and the 3 being the Rest of the World invading from the East, West and South. I was the South.

Fortress America Board

The US player needs to survive 10 turns and repel the invaders. They start with 60 units on the board spread across the map. Destroyed units have the potential to come back into the game.

The rest of us start with 60 units each but only 20 from each side start on the board in the 3 distinct zones that surround America from the West, East and South. Dead units go to a ‘Graveyard’ and (generally) won’t come back. We win by capturing and holding 18 cities at the end of the US players turn.

Turn order starts in the West, goes to the South, the East and then the US players turn.

The game is played over 8 phases so it’s nice to have a great player Aid. All games should have a player aid.

Fortress America Player Aid


The first step  is re-enforcements. Each of the Invaders can recruit 8 units into their spawning area. Or they can recruit 5 units and draw a card which can be played later. These cards are for a specific deck to that invading force. The US player gets to play 2 cards at this point which will Spawn previously killed Soldiers or Partisans at (often) random locations on the Map. Otherwise they are given a specific large region to deploy in.

Now you declare battles. You put a token in the area you intend to move into.

Then is the manoeuvres phase. Your units have a ‘Manoeuvres’ movement statistic with Bombers moving 4 and Infantry unable to move. You can transport 1 Infantry unit 1 space by moving it with a Mobile Unit.

Then it is the Lasers phase which only the US player gets to have. Each turn they spawn a Laser in a City they control and get to fire each Laser at a unit anywhere on the board. One turn 1 they fire 1 Laser, but by turn 3 they have already fired 6 times! Harsh!

Yes, it’s a Laser than has a targeting area as large as North America. There are also Hover Tanks, it’s the ‘near future’ 🙂 I like this, but I would have also been happy with regular tanks and bombing runs instead of Lasers.

Then combat. Combat is done via Dice with the Defenders attacking first. This means the US very rarely attacked causing us to invade Cities with strong defences that attack first.

Fortress America Dice

Then comes the Invasion movement. This allows attackers to move into captured areas or retreat away. Each unit has an ‘Invasion’ movement statistic  for how far they can move. Infantry can move on their own in this phase.

Then the Invaders have a supply check. you need to make sure Units aren’t ‘cut off’ from their base and must be tracked back via captured regions.

Then those tokens you use to ‘Declare Battles’ are flipped to show you control the region if you managed to Invade it.

This repeats until the US survive 10 turns or at the end of the US players turn the Invaders have captured 18 Cities.

Fortress America in the South

So this game took a few hours to play and the Invaders won.

I generally don’t like War Games or this type of game but this one was fun to play. I still haven’t got the mind for combat games and make a lot of mistakes during game play but I managed to come back to hold my area and control Cities in the South.

Would I play it again? Probably not but it’s a very good game.

Here is a link to the Michael Gray interview from The Ludology Podcast.

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