Monday, November 07, 2011

BottosCon 2011, Day 3

How quickly the weekend goes when you're having fun! Seems like I just got here, but already it's time to go.

Due to a mixup on my part as to when I was going to start the PQ-17 demo, not to mention trying to figure out what I was going to have for breakfast (ended up with chipboard-based granola bars from the quikiemart across the street from the hotel), and by the time I got downstairs my two victims had already found other games to play. Not a problem for me, I was feeling like I was a bit overwhelmed anyway.

As it turned out, one of my players was going to play Fortress America, and they needed a fourth. FA is an old GameMasters game from Milton Bradley back in the day, along with Axis and Allies as well as Shogun (later Samurai Swords, later Ikusa). Hilariously, they were playing Shogun at another table. I'd played the other two games, but never FA, and was looking forward to it despite having heard it was the weakest of the three. Weakest perhaps, but I had a blast.

The game came out in the 80's, when Reagan was president and it looked like a nuclear war was an actual possibility. The Nicaraguans were Socialist, we were just 10 years out of Vietnam, and the Chinese were starting their "long march" to become the world's next dominant power. Watching children's television where the main character speaks half in Mandarin, and I can tell you that we are seeing the voices of our new overlords. That's history, no one stays on top forever no matter how much they want to.

In FA, America is fighting off invasions on three fronts: the Asian People's Front (or the People's Front of Asia, can't remember which) who are invading the Left Coast from LA north; the Central American Fruit Picker's Union from the south (San Diego to New Orleans), and the Slavic Hordes from Miami to Maine. Hilariously, the Asian side is yellow and the Slavic Hordes are Red. I was the Yellow Peril, Rob was the CAFPU, and Michel was the Reds, while Clayton was the Yanks. Hilariously (my word of the day) he wore a CCCP hockey jersey.

Sounds kind of difficult for the US, but of course this is a game sold in the US so that means they need to have more than a fighting chance. And, of course, they should... Wolverines! Sadly, no Cubans airdropping into Denver in this game, although they tried.

Because there's really no reason to pay the slightest attention to what's happening on the other side of the continent, at least as the Yellow Peril (or the Reds, for that matter), I don't know much about what happened over there other than initially it seemed that things went well in the mid-Atlantic states south, not so well in the north. There are a *lot* of cities in the rust belt, so a lot of reason for the US to make more of an effort guarding it. I do know that Michel had to leave to catch a train and his role was taken over by someone that I'm ashamed to say I didn't really get to meet. However, Rob was able to stick around for the entire game this time!

Maybe it's my deodorant.

I was very successful in my initial foray on the coast, taking the entire thing as well as making good use of my helicopters to strike inland. There are not a lot of forces on the coast, so not a difficult stretch. I took Portland, San Francisco, and LA with very few casualties. Rob had a little more trouble, as did Michel.

As I moved inland, Seattle went back and forth a couple of times, but eventually I took enough ground to have it safe in my backfield, and I was moving on to Salt Lake City. By now Rob was knocking on Denver's door, but was having trouble maintaining control of those pesky Texan cities, and Michel had control of the entire SE, although there had been no link up with Rob. In contrast, Rob and I were guarding each other's flanks, although Rob was leaving a lot of territory ungarrisoned, something I used the slow nature of my infantry to avoid.

FA is an interesting game because the invaders have a set amount of new units to bring in every turn, and eventually they run out. Kind of silly for the Chinese, who have more people than they know what to do with, but hey, it was an alt-history game. The US, on the other hand, draws cards to place units on the map, which can happen in your backfield if you aren't careful. By the time we were approaching the endgame, I had taken everything west of the Rockies and was pressing toward either Denver or Kansas City (maybe St Louis, not really sure), but the real prize was the edge of the Rust Belt in the Upper Midwest, as we Yanks say, and all of those SDI emplacements that Clayton kept using to zap our units. I was trying to outflank him to the north and as such had had to leave a few open areas when Clayton dropped some partisans into the Pacific Northwest and threatened both Seattle and Portland.

Couldn't have that...

Amazingly, both cities held, but it took a lot of extra work on my part and burned a few units to root them all out. The diversion worked and by now I was getting a little thin on the ground. Clayton, however, was out of cards to draw for reinforcements as well, so if I could get my spread out infantry going I had a shot at knocking him out. However, Rob's campaign had been constantly plagued by having his cities retaken regularly, and while we did hit the magic number of 18, we had not been at all able to keep it and never got close again. We finally called it with the CAFPU down to something like six units on the map, and actually being threatened by a lone US mobile unit in Phoenix. I was ready to pick up the pieces, but it was clear that if we continued the game could go for a while and it was getting to be time to go, so we called it for Clayton at that point.

This game was, by far, the surprise of the con for me. I'd never played, and I have to say that I thought I never would. A&A, by far the successful franchise out of the three GameMaster games, has never really captured my fancy, even with all of the various spinoffs (although I think that the D-Day and Bulge games are excellent introductory games for new wargamers). While I knew that FA would be a different game, I was astonished to find a game that I was having a lot of fun playing with almost no formal rules explanation at all. I was even looking forward to the ultimate turn where the various armies all turn on each other to try to see who gets the prize, a la Monsters Ravage Your Local Hooters. Were I to find a copy in decent shape for a reasonable price, I might just buy this thing, it was that entertaining and did reward good play (which Clayton told me I had accomplished).

And that was that. I'd already packed the car and checked out, so all I had to do was remember the six or seven things I had laying around the con area, get in the car, and drive.

And drive. And drive. I arrived home around 8pm, very tired and ready for bed. And it was evening and morning the third day.

I will post my overall impressions of the con very soon, but you can be sure that I had a great time and will almost certainly be back next year.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I'm interested in giving Fortress America a try if you ever do pick it up. I always thought it looked cool.