Tonight may be the penultimate session of Fortress Europa. My dad and I got together last weekend and played while football was on.
We’ve fought to something of a stalemate, but considering this is WWII, that is not a good thing for the Allies. Like in my last update, I’m several months behind the historical Allied progress. I’ve finally made it to the Siegfried line, but even weak units are nearly invincible when in a fortress in the mountains and across a river. It’s do or die time, so I’m forced to make repeated attacks at unfavorable odds. My dad has opted to sacrifice his armored reinforcements for the rest of the game to take advantage of the Panzer Reserve rule; by withdrawing a little over half a dozen units in mid-fall and forfeiting any tank reinforcements for the rest of the game, on the first December turn, lots of the SS Panzer units I had killed earlier are rebuilt and redeployed. Even with the massive reinforcements, my dad couldn’t get decent enough odds to launch a ‘Battle of the Bulge’ counterattack. Which means there are tons of heavy tanks in impregnable fortifications rather than out as sitting ducks in the woods between the Meuse and Moselle. “Hitler decides against launching a massive Panzer offensive through a dense forest? Brilliant!”
The Brits had been stalling out for some time in their own theatre, and it got to the point where I needed to just land a bunch of Americans in the north to get the job done. I’ve managed to push through the Low Countries now and my only real chance at winning is by maneuvering around the Germans’ fortified lines and causing a systematic collapse. My dad has refused his northern flank, but if I can get decent enough weather to fly some ground support missions, I might be able to break through.
Now that we’re reaching the end, I can see and account for all of the mistakes I’ve made.
Partisans – Even though they’re a VERY minor factor, not using my French partisans could’ve swung the game in my dad’s favor. The Partisans are not actually a combat unit, but can be placed out at the beginning of a turn to disrupt rail movement through one hex so long as they’re not in an enemy zone of control or within so many hexes of an SS unit.
Consolidation – I spent too much time consolidating my forces and securing Brittany. Even though my delays meant that the German forces in other districts were unable to respond, meaning I could get overwhelming numbers into France against those defenses, it cost me time that would’ve been better spent pushing forward. The troops I sent into southern France and Italy would’ve been better in the north and central theatres and I should’ve left those areas for the Free French in Africa to handle.
Paratroopers – Most of my paradrops were used to harry German HQs. I would drop a few elite units behind German lines, get 6-1 odds on OB West or whomever, crush it, and then be overrun by Germans who were making their slow withdraw to the Rhine. I probably should’ve used them to get better odds against forces on the wrong side of rivers. The few places where a strategic paradrop would’ve been helpful, either bad weather or bad timing prevented me from making the most of it.
One of the most striking parts of playing Fortress Europa is how different the gameplay is for each player. My turns as the Allies would be 10-20+ minutes agonizing over my forces, shuffling around trying to get decent odds, tallying the strength points of all the units involved and writing them down so I wouldn’t have to recount all of my pieces for each fight and refigure the odds (because I just can’t keep track of the values of 50 counters and odds for 5-10 attacks in my head). I’d roll through my attacks, retreat units, and do it all over again (but with reduced movement allowance and no air support) for the second impulse. Conversely, as the Germans, my dad watches and says “Okay” when the units retreat or “Shit” when they die, then on his turn spends four or five minutes to moves the guys on the frontlines back a few hexes, moves reinforcements from the Homeland, repositions his HQs, and at most makes one attack on an Allied division that somehow got isolated at half-strength in a hex by itself. He does enjoy playing as the Germans because he’s really good at ‘fighting retreats’, but I can’t help but feel strange that my turns have made up 3/4s of the game time. On the plus side, it’s given him time to read the Summer 1947 Issue of Planet Stories that I’m loaning him while he takes his turns.
I’ll admit that I can’t recommend Fortress Europa as strongly as some of the other games we’ve played. Though at a glance, it looks similar to Bar-Lev, the latter feels much more fast paced, and the tit-for-tat combat in which both combatants roll their odds at each engagement is more enjoyable than the Attacker-only combat table rolled on a D6. There’s way more luck involve in an attack because of the Combat Results table since getting favorable odds is difficult without use of airplanes and even then can result in the awful “Defender Retreat”, and no strategy can make up for consistently rolling bad (unlike a game like Civil War). It has a degree of nostalgia to it, and it IS neat that it includes division, battalion and platoon counters that correspond to their historical counterparts (there is even a fun but useless 150th SS Panzer Brigade 1 strength Panzer unit that can ignore American ZOC or the Voltron-like British 79th Armoured with combat engineering abilities), but there are probably better WWII games out there.