This is a review of Fortress America by Milton Bradley. This is the last game that I'm reviewing in the Gamemaster line. This is probably my least favorite of the Gamemaster games, which still means I love the game. If one looks at the Gamemaster line as covering the entire span of history, then Fortress America would be the last in the timeline covering a psuedo modern futuristic time period where the US is challenged by three other alliances of the World. For those who love themes and also love the movie Red Dawn Rising, or books like Red Dawn, this is a game that is for you. Much of this review is written in reference to the other Gamemaster games. The summary of it's scores is as follows...
Materials - 9
Rules Presentation - 5
Gameplay - 8
Personal Tilt - 7
Replayability - 8
Useability - 5
Materials - Like most of the other Gamemaster games, the materials in this game are superior. Just like all the others Fortress America has a lot of plastic and a durable board. This game has four armies of plastic soldiers, planes, hovertanks, and all other sorts of assorted pieces, including lasers (though not lasers on the heads of frikken sharks). It doesn't have any economics with money that are in three out of the five other Gamemaster games (Conquest of the Empire, Axis & Allies, and Shogun/Samurai Swords). Basically the game has excellent pieces. The only problem that could exist is that it basically uses ALL the pieces, or can use all the pieces in three out of the four armies. Mine doesn't have any replacement pieces, so if you lose a few pieces somehow, you could have a problem. Many games use all the pieces in it, but very few of those normally have quite as many pieces to keep track of as Fortress America. However, that isn't that big a detriment, and only a real factor if you are one of those that lose pieces occasionally (which unfortunately for me can be a little harder if you have kids around...gotta keep sharp eyes on those kids!).
It scores a 9.
Rules Presentation - In many ways the rules are very similar in writing to all the other Gamemaster line. However, for me at least, they were a little more confusing than the others, and the first time I ever played this game we misinterpreted a rule or two. Overall it's straightforward, but there are some small rules that could be easily misinterpreted. Over all however, it can be grasped with attention to the details placed in the rules. It's nothing to shout outloud about but not anything that is overally bad either.
It scores a 5
Gameplay - The game Fortress America has the idea that three other great alliances, from the East, West, and South of the US, are attacking the US all at once. For some reason Canada has elected to stay out of the war, and "America stands alone" (can you name the movie that phrase is from?) in the battle for freedom. Right from the beginning the three factions lay down a third of their armies in staging areas in the sea of the borders of the US. Right from the start the US is outnumbered. The armies converge and in usual Gamemaster fashion for combat, each type of craft has to roll a certain amount to have a successful attack. In addition, different pieces have different abilities. Each turn, for reinforcements, the three enemy factions get a set amount of armies to lay down in their staging areas. Meanwhile the poor US get's a laser and draws cards hoping that they can get some major reinforcements to help them turn back the tide of oncoming enemies. It's the three vs. one battle that either the US will win, or the other three will thrash the US.
The US basically is playing a defensive game, as the battles occur on US soil. They get the added option of Lasers, which have one of the easiest hit ratios, but are very limited in number. The US slowly gains one per turn, and so can get more laser attacks per turn as the game goes on. With the three enemy factions, they continue to get reinforcements until they have used up all their armies pieces, at which point they get no more reinforcements for the rest of the game. The US on the otherhand can continue to get reinforcements for as long as it stands, and continues to get additional lasers.
In this fashion it becomes a race for the three factions to overwhelm the US quickly before their power starts to degrade, even as the US's power rises. They can try to sieze 17+ cities quickly, and hold them until the US's turn (though typically if you can sieze 19 or 20 in the last turn, you'll be assured of being able to have enough cities to win the game even if the US has the power to seize some from you). It's surprisingly balanced, the games almost always turn out to be tightly contested battles of strength, and in some ways may be one of the most balanced of the Gamemaster line. The gameplay is superb and rates highly.
It rates an 8
Personal Tilt - I love all the Gamemaster line, but I have to admit, it's been a little while since I played this one. Normally I'll prefer to play another similar type game if I'm in the mood such as another one of the Gamemaster games, or even a game similar to the Game master games such as Buck Rogers or War of the Ring (different, and yet some of the concepts are similar in those games). It's still a game I think is great, but as I said at the start of the review, probably my least favorite of the games. I love the modern theme, but it's not one that gets to the table as often as the others.
It's rates a 7,
Replayability - The game has set amounts of armies coming in as reinforcements, and set places from where they are coming from. This can detract some from Replayability, however, how you place your armies changes according to how you want to focus your strategy. Hence in that regard it can have some good replay value, along with the fact that the game is normally a pretty tight contest so that it can always keep you on the edge of your seat, especially as the game reaches it's climax and it teeters between victory and defeat for either side. Overall it has decent replay value and scores above average.
It scores an 8.
Useability - Once again one of the things about the Gamemaster line is that they use a LOT of dice typically, and in many ways will not appeal to that entire segment that dislike dice mechanics, or lite wargames. This game really doesn't have anything but the warfare about it, and so if you want to play a nice game that's more peaceful, this game is not for you or your group. Once someone knows how to play and explains it to others it has decent accessibility, but it can be even more limited in scope due to it's direct focus on battle. It really is mostly about straight combat and strategy. It will probably appeal to those who enjoy these types of games, which I find to be many times young male gamers (there's NOTHING against other gamers, my wife plays this game, so obviously it CAN be enjoyed by any and everyone who favors these types of games). It can be played by anywhere from two to four players, so that makes it a little more accessible, but it's central theme can be a large put off for many. Hence it's useability score is more on the low side of average.
It scores a 5.
Overall the game is good for the lite Wargamers out there. It has great materials, enjoyable and tense gameplay, and a high replayability. It might not appeal to many gamers due to it's focus purely on combat and war strategy without any frills or added ideas put into it, but then that's exactly what the doctor orders sometimes for those of us who enjoy these types of games.
It's final score is a solid 7.
Putting in a slight correction to the above text that I mean the movie Red Dawn, and the Book by Tom Clancy, Red Storm Rising.