I’ve had time to play a couple of games of the new Fortress America. Aside from the new pieces, the game is pretty much the same as the older version. Here are the most noteable differences:
The USA’s Partisan cards are spelled out quite a bit clearer than the old ones. These tell you EXACTLY what territories, units and actions are involved. Most of the cards are really the same as in the old deck, except of course one that deals with Colorado Springs, which wasn’t in the old game, but the new cards seem to spell out what you are supposed to do in more detail. They even tell you to discard the card after you are done.
After I compared the new and old cards, I can see that some of the old cards could have been misread. Specifically, the MAJOR AIRLIFT card. With the old game, I always played it by taking ALL US units anywhere on the board and moving them as I wished. The new MAJOR AIRLIFT card specifically says that you pick ONE territory and can move the units from that territory to anywhere on the board that doesn’t have enemy units (even enemy controlled, unoccupied city territories). So, the USA player is basically limited to a maximum of 5 military units that he/she can move around like this. While this can still be a big plus for the US, especially if the invaders have left a lot of cities unoccupied, it isn’t so devastating to the invaders that it might be a game ender. Since then, I have gone back and re-read the MAJOR AIRLIFT card in the old deck and realized that I think I have mis-played it all this time. I think it might have ALWAYS been just one territory of units, not ALL US units. The way it is worded could go either way.
Another big difference is that the Mobile Units are much more useful now. If you have a Mobile Unit and an Infantry (or Partisan for the US) in the same territory, that Mobile Unit can transport that Infantry/Partisan with it in the Maneuvers phase (normally Infantry/Partisans have no movement in the Maneuvers phase). This happens on a 1:1 ratio. So if you have 2 Infantry and 1 Mobile Unit, then only 1 Infantry may travel with the Mobile Unit. That makes Mobile Units much more valuable now. In the old game, they were more or less mobile cannon fodder to me.
Finally, the biggest difference is that now there are cards for the Invaders. Each Invader has a deck of 8 cards that can give them certain advantages if certain conditions are met. During the reinforcement phase, each Invader must decide to get 8 new units or get only 5 new units and draw a card. Each card has certain advantages which could boost their forces’ movement or attacking power or cause a detriment to the US’s abilities (like depriving them of the laser attacks for a round). To gain these advantages, certain conditions must be met, like holding certain cities, or simply a certain number of cities and/or holding certain resource territories (agriculture, mineral, oil). Some cards are one time use and others are “Remain In Play” which the invader that holds that card can use even if the original conditions are no longer met. For example: Say the Western Invader draws a “Remain In Play” card and the conditions are that he has to own Los Angeles, 2 Agricultures and 1 Mineral. Then later on he loses one of the Agricultures, or the Mineral, or even Los Angeles, he can STILL PLAY THAT CARD. Also, even once the Invader’s reserves are depleted, they can still draw cards during the reinforcements phase. If you get a card for which you haven’t met the conditions yet, you simply keep it face down in front of you until you can use it. So, theoretically, Invaders could possibly use several cards in the same turn, provided all the conditions are met for each card.
Frankly, while some of the advantages in the cards are pretty good, I think overall they are more of a detriment to the invaders as well as the overall game experience. As an invader, you might end up becoming too fixated on trying to accomplish the conditions on a card so that you can gain that advantage that you end up not doing other things that would better defeat the USA forces. As for the game, it really takes more time for the invaders to keep checking their cards to see if they meed the requirements. Also, losing that 3 extra pieces each turn so you can draw a card may not seem like a lot, but I think it could be just enough for the USA player to get just enough of an edge that they don’t lose all 18 cities. The longer this game goes, the more forces the US will have and the less the Invaders will have, thus it will be that much harder to gain the 18 cities and defeat the US. Plus if you keep getting cards that you can’t use, then is it really worth losing those extra 3 units each turn. It seems to me like a lot of the conditions, while not impossible, are pretty hard for the Invaders to accomplish. For Example: there are two or three cards for the Eastern Invader where one of the conditions is an Oil Resource. The nearest one for them is clear over by Memphis. That’s a lot of territory to conquer.
Well, there is my report. It’s a pretty cool game, but VERY similar to the old game. If you have the original, unless you just really want the new pieces and map or really want to try out the new Invader cards, I would say save your money and play the original some more becasue except for the few points above, they are basically the same game.