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Fortress America - Board Game (1986) - Sauce1977 [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Fortress America - Board Game (1986) [Jan. 5th, 2007|12:00 pm]
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[Current Location |Detroit, MI, USA]
[Special Music |Rage Against the Machine - Testify]

I had this game in the late 1980s.

I didn't get to play it too often with other kids. Of the kids I knew, most wanted to play touch football, to play tag, to heckle some borderline weird kid that smelled, to talk about whether or not they glimpsed a girl's panties when she sat sloppily in a raised chair in front of the class, to crack jokes about teachers, et cetera. I joined in those reindeer games.

In my downtime, however, I fell deep in thought about such things as defense from hordes of invaders.

I mean, Fortress America was a game of high adventure, people.

Not detailed right down to the looting vs. finding bread and water, but hey, it's a game, kids.

I was losing baby teeth when I completed the full 1,000 page plus version of The Stand. I understood and enjoyed Arthur C. Clarke yarns before I set foot in a high school. I hadn't experienced acne yet. Freak? Naw, I was a kid, and I knew it. However, I had a grasp and appreciation of adult concepts. My mind roamed free.

Fortress America had a Saddam-ish figure depicted in a picture on the front of the game.

Somehow he was involved in this fictional assault on US soil.

The Saddam-ish figure was the largest non-US face in the whole image. I have no idea why that was.

When this game was released, Iraq and Iran were at war. Iraq was still a relative non-aggressor in comparison to Iran, from a point of view from the United States. Of all things at that particular time in the mid-1980s, Iraq was hardly viewed as a problem, well, in comparison to Libya.

Muammar al-Gaddafi, leader of Libya, was seen as the then-major threatening leader from the Middle East. In Back to the Future, when Doc tells Marty to run because they found him, they were Libyans. Back in the 1980s, President Reagan ordered a bombing raid that failed in killing Gaddafi. Compare that with the 2ks. Today, Libya and Gaddafi are viewed as more of a neutral/friendly. As time flies, the shades of gray lighten and darken.

Of all things not cool from then-Iraq, the Dujail Massacre had already happened. Saddam was carrying out the Al-Anfal Campaign from 1986 to 1989.

However, the Middle East was less of a problem in comparison to the USSR. The Cold War was still fresh and ever-present. I remember watching War Games and Red Dawn. I remember, as a child, making mental notes about places where I could escape fallout from nukes. I also figured Detroit would be viewed as a factory state, and my area would have been bombed as heavily as larger areas like Los Angeles and New York City. I wondered if I could use urine in a radiator to do a temporary repair to get the ride to a safer area. The Cold War was real to me.

Defense of the collective ass, if the world decided they are tired of the U.S.A.'s bullshit, would remain a valid thought.

Isolationism gone wrong.

This was the direct quote from the back of the board game, in synopsis of Fortress America:


It is the early 21st Century. In space, hundreds of United States satellites stand grim watch, keeping nuclear attack at bay. On land, the U.S. is about to be ambushed on its home shores.

Twenty years ago, the U.S. embarked on a satellite program to harness solar energy from space. Secretly, but with good intentions, they equipped each satellite with an anti-missile laser. And "Star Wars" became a reality.

The Soviet Union was outraged. The U.S. had violated the Nuclear Weapons Reduction Act of 1993. The "Sentinels in the Sky" were holding the rest of the world hostage - and the U.S. would suffer for it.

Now, hostile armies prepare to attack the U.S. from three sides. On the Eastern shores, the Euro-Socialist Pact. At the Southern Border, the Central American Federation. From the West, the Asian Peoples Alliance. And the U.S. is without allies.

At this explosive time in the imaginary future, Fortress America challenges you to take part in the attack or defense of the United States. Battle bravely - and alone - to save it. Or ally yourself with two other invaders to force its surrender.

As an invader, decide where and how to attack. Without nuclear weapons, you'll need advance planning and keen military strategy to move in and take over city and mountain territories. Can your infantrymen take San Antonio - or should you send in hovertanks and bombers instead?

As the ambushed United States, your initial defense is weak. But gradually, new technologies, laser complexes, and the indomitable partisan spirit could give you the advantage.

Whether invading or defending, you'll have hours of excitement as Fortress America takes you to an imaginary, battle-fraught future to decide the fate of the United States!

When I set up this game, I never really wanted to be any of the attacking parties. I always wanted to be the United States.

Do you feel like defending Atlanta today?  Why yes, yes you do.  They shall take the Coca-Cola from our cold dead hands!

If the invading parties controlled at least 18 of the 30 city-territories at any point of the game, then the invaders would defeat the United States and win the game. If, while the United States retained control of 13 or more of their city-territories, the United States defeated all the invader units, or the invaders (players) conceded defeat, then the United States would win the game.

The forces of the invaders were finite. Invaders and their forces did not possess ability to replenish. The United States could use initial resources plus growing numbers from success of resistance plus aid from partisan forces (aka private citizen militia) along the way. The strength of the defense of the United States depended upon the percentage of casualties of the invaders.

In order of turn, the invading parties went ahead of the United States. Each party would progress through several ordered events in their turn. Dice would be rolled, partisan cards would be drawn, and the game would progress with the various units. Each type of unit had different movement and attack abilities, and such events would involve multiple dice to determine outcomes.

The game, as hinted previously, scaled itself to a manageable level. The game was designed for ages 12 and above. On the scale, players battled for control of major cities, oil resources, mineral resources, and agricultural resources. However, I'm surprised to this day that they didn't include power resources like nuclear power plants. I can imagine an outage of power and water across grids to be a rather quick way to induce pressure on defensive forces. It would certainly rob power of fight from possible supporting militias.

While the Central American Federation attacked from the South up from the Mexico border, and the Asian Peoples Alliance attacked from the West from the Pacific seaboard, and the Euro-Socialist Pact attacked from the East from the Atlantic seaboard, there were no United Kingdom and Former Friends of the U.S.A. to make the assault from the North across the Canadian Border. Canada played Switzerland in this game.

However, perhaps the Canadians would be sick and tired of bad sitcoms and poor excuses for beer from their cousins in the States. Maybe Canada would not mind holding a staging ground for an attack from the North. Or, maybe Canada would have possibly fallen under control of a similar alliance of equal size to the other three. Maybe the UK would want to retake control of the territories. They lost them, then they tried to retake them in 1812 and failed. Such ideas wouldn't be out of complete realm of possibility.

I suspect that the nature of the game is somewhat difficult to believe. While the States could replenish forces, the invaders could not. I feel that when invading forces come from elsewhere, as they overtake regions of a target country, through destruction and occupation, the defending country, however big or small, would find it more difficult to replenish their ability to do battle. Reinforcements from invaders would take longer to arrive, but wherever the location of a war, the landscape becomes destroyed in a matter of months, and destroyed land hinders the war machine.

Regardless of certain designs and details, however, it was a swell game.

Your army guys didn't bleed, but they could melt if you exposed them to high temperatures.

I loved playing with the army guys. What boy didn't enjoy army guys from my age group? There were tons of lil' army guys to arrange. I still see bags of plastic army guys for sale in toy stores. As a child, I'd spend hours arranging them, theorizing, trying different strategies, and the like.

The United States had laser guns. These guns could tear up enemies at a long range. Essentially, any invader unit on the board was vulnerable when the States had a laser towner online and ready to fire. This unique United States player feature, the lasers, tied into Reagan's Star Wars initiative. In this alternate future, Reagan's plan carried out to be a sophisticated array that was not only capable of destroying long range missiles, but it could carry out attacks on things like a platoon of invading troops. These guns were ground-based, and the invaders could destroy the gun towers, but when the United States had them, they worked well.

The invaders had a tough time in the sense that they had to maintain supply lines. If the United States cut off a set of invader units from the chain leading back to the invasion zone, then the invader's units would be destroyed. I found that fun similar to the Command and Conquer video game series, when one would take a truck filled with engineers to quickly overtake an enemy's buildings. If done right, such moves would cripple the enemy.

Obviously, this game was not for everyone. For a young lad who was somewhat more advanced than most kids his age, as an only child in a state that is a peninsula, I totally understood isolationism, and I completely warmed to the ideas of defense. Games with strategy appealed to me. I had an instinct for strategy. This game was cool.


[User Picture]From: lordjunon
2007-01-05 05:52 pm (UTC)
all those old milton bradely "high adventure" board games go for a pretty penny on the land of ebay now adays. I came within inches of getting fortress america a couple years ago.

I have 2 of those games. Axis and allies and Samurai swords. I know there are a couple other ones, ones set in the roman empire and the other is set in the pirate world. I was at a gaming auction a few years ago and those both went into the triple digits.

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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2007-01-05 06:06 pm (UTC)
I didn't know that about the value of the games. I just like playing them.

I used to play this board game called the Eddie Cantor game. It was a celebrity from the earlier part of the 20th Century, and that was some sort of board game where one would race to the finish.
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[User Picture]From: brushwithrob
2007-01-05 08:22 pm (UTC)
I swear to God, if you ever want to play this and are in New York, or I'm in Michigan, it's on. it sounds amazing.

I remember playing "Axis and Allies" with my friend Rye and my friend Sean back in the day. It was like that "Seinfeld" episode where Newman and Kramer play "Risk" for a few days and leave the board only to sleep and eat.

We'd leave the board at Rye's, as he was trustworthy, and we'd scatter to our homes. The next day, the battle would wage on.

I won, eventually, by the skin of my teeth.

Glorious battle hardened warriors, were we.
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2007-01-06 05:08 am (UTC)
Sounds cool. If we could find a coffee house or some place that had a place to set up a board game (a large-enough table), that would be cool. I'm really rusty at games like this, but I am sure that I could get right back into it.

On New Year's Eve, I just learned how to play Mexican Train Dominoes. That was a fun game, but I had my ass handed to me. I kept getting stuck with gigantic numbered dominoes as the game ended.
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[User Picture]From: brushwithrob
2007-01-06 06:49 am (UTC)
My Mom plays that with her sisters, it's, from what I hear, a lot of fun.

I miss playing board games. I love playing "Scene It" and I own it, but I've played like, twice.

"Battleship" is a favorite, too.
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2007-01-06 07:00 am (UTC)
I loved Battleship.

I played a whole lot more Battleship than I did of Fortress America or Risk.

The strategy with Battleship was to switch-up one's placement. Sometimes using the edges of the map to place one's ships was a good idea, but the drawback was that if the person discovered one on the edge, then that person was likely to start pwning by going for shots along the edges.
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[User Picture]From: brushwithrob
2007-01-06 07:09 am (UTC)
Oh fuck yeah. I always made the mistake of keeping two relatively close together, almost right on top of each other.
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[User Picture]From: brushwithrob
2007-01-09 07:01 pm (UTC)
That is, after all, the only winning strategy. lol
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[User Picture]From: thecesspit
2007-01-07 12:48 pm (UTC)
More games of this ilk and others:

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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2007-01-08 06:46 pm (UTC)
What were your favorite games?
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[User Picture]From: thecesspit
2007-01-08 09:00 pm (UTC)
Were? Shogun was always played lots, as was Blood Bowl.

I now play lots of Arkham Horror, Caylus and other such games. I like board games. It's my obsession.
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2007-01-08 09:02 pm (UTC)
I can't remember whether or not I've asked this, but did you ever play a video game series called Romance of the Three Kingdoms?
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[User Picture]From: thecesspit
2007-01-09 05:23 pm (UTC)
Nope, just wiki'd iot to see if it rang bells, but it's all news to me, I'm afraid. Any good?
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2007-01-09 05:42 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed the idea of taking over early China. I think I played it on the SNES, and it was lots of fun.
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