Fortress Europa Wrap-up & Minor Updates

The final nail in the coffin was hammered on the September IV turn.  I managed to make one last heroic strike and was even able to take out SHAEF, but without enough troops to form a line, my few strong piles would get surrounded by Allied troops and would so be unable to escape (units retreating through enemy ZOC are immediately eliminated).

Anti-climactic, I know.  But we will be starting Avalon Hill’s Bull Run this week, which we are both pretty stoked about.  After bagging Fortress Europa, we set up the Order of Battle Cards, were both impressed and perplexed by the granularity of the forces, attempted to extrapolate the system based on the pieces and were delighted as we figured out that some of our guesses were correct.  On the surface, it looks like a far more complicated game than it probably actually is.  I’ll go into that in the first post of our run on that game.

So, time for a few updates.  First, the zine:

I may have found an artist for the first issue of Cirsova.  Once contracts are signed and everything is official, I can make the official announcement.  I’m pretty excited about it.  This week, I’ll be doing a bit more work on adspace; I’ve figured out how much adspace I have, now I just need to get some exact print dimensions so I can provide those specs to potential advertisers.

Now that I may have an artist, I have figured up my costs for this first issue, crunched numbers and have something in the way of rewards tiers planned out.  All rewards will be some combination of “investing” for one copy or many and buying an ad or not buying an ad.  I’m going to try not to harp on this too much, so I don’t burn people out before I get a chance to actually launch the kickstarter, so my next updates prior to launch will simply be to announce the artist, show off the art once it’s done, and to promote the kickstarter.  I’ll include details on those things here, naturally.

Second, Drasmyr Week:

It’s not quite going to be a full-blown Drasmyr week like I did when The Children of Lubrochius came out, but I will have the author Matthew D. Ryan here on Wednesday talking about Tolkien.  Hardback for Sceptre of Morgulan comes out on Lulu tomorrow and you can bet I’ll be ordering it!

Now, the AlisonScam:

I wanted to try to say something about the whole Alison Prime/Steve Polk massive troll, but I can’t really put together anything that doesn’t sound like I’m saying ‘this person is being pilloried and that’s probably a good thing’.  For those who don’t know, Alison Prime was a self-described boob obsessed lesbian gamer girl who was also a cancer survivor and survivor of domestic abuse who was loudly pro-gamergate (though from what I’ve heard, she would mostly derail conversations by bringing up boobs); this person turned out to be a sock-puppet account of some dude named Steve who used pics from a (supposedly dead) friend and other various similar looking women to create a composite fake gamer girl.  Steve’s house burned down and got outed when people were raising money for “Alison Prime” whose house burned down.

I was only vaguely aware of Alison Prime, because I mostly only paid attention to a small handful of streamers whom I had time for (Sargon, Vee, Queeny before she left, Sox and the Honey Badgers.)  Most GG drama is pretty bad for GG, but I don’t know if it will be bad in the long run that everyone in all corners of GG can be united in being pissed off that someone lied about being a cancer and abuse survivor for attention. It also shines a bit of an uncomfortable light on how the internet affects our empathy: many people seemed to love and genuinely care about this weird and kooky person who turned out to never actually exist.  To find out that someone you cared about was not only lying to you but didn’t actually exist must be pretty gutwrenching, and I feel pretty bad for the folks who’ve been affected by it.

Fortress Europa Take 2 Pt. 2

The important lesson learned in this rather shorter playthrough of Fortress Europa is to not leave Holland a tempting enough invasion site.  If the Allies can be contained here, they will be bottled up worse than any other landing zone with the fewest eligible ports to increase their supply capacity.  On the other hand, if they are able to break-out, there will be no containing them at all and the German forces will be totally unable to form an effective line.

I’ve managed to keep a strongpoint at the north end of the Siegfried line that may very well remain for the rest of the game, but other than serve as a mild distraction, I don’t think they will be able to make a game-changing difference.  As the coastal gunners leave their post and hop on trains back to German, paratroops and commandos have seized both Brittany and the French Riviera, and the Pas de Calais has folded to the massive second wave invasion.  Brussels and Paris have fallen and American mechanized cavalry has nothing but a few volksturm between them and the victory objectives in Germany.

My one stroke of brilliance which gives me something of a sense of victory as I go down in flames: I managed to land some Luftwaffe behind the British lines to take out their main HQ.  The British northern flank around Bremen crumbled in disarray upon news that Bernie Montgomery died in a hail of gunfire as an entire division of Fallschirmjäger landed right in the middle of the 21st Army Group’s command camp.

I’ve been fairly generous in letting my dad move his HQs up to ensure that his troops are in supply if he forgot to move them in the second impulse (family after all), but there was no getting around a dozen British units cut off from any other allied supply.  It let me regain a small foothold in northern Germany, which might buy me time for my September reinforcements (the first substantial that the Germans get) to arrive, but with most of the fortifications gone and southern Germany almost forfeit, it won’t tide me over for another 15+ turns.

Next session will almost certainly be the last.

Tomorrow: Why is a 14+ strong DCC party the most craven group of adventurers I’ve ever been a part of?

Fortress Europa Take 2 pt 1

I have the feeling that this is going to be a relatively short game.* My dad decided to land his forces in Holland and overran the Germans there before I had time to blow the dykes. Just a few turns in, he managed to knock out all of my elite SS Panzer divisions, through combinations of overwhelming odds, lucky rolls and trapping a few of my stacks between multiple allied ZOC.

I’ve managed to create some strong points in a few areas, but there’s no way that I’ll be able to hang on for another 30 turns, with allies pouring into Amsterdam and just a few hexes outside of Bremen . I mean, it’s not August 1944 yet! My dad still has one more invasion he can launch, and I’ve already denuded most of the coastal defenses so as to put as many half-strength infantry divisions on the trains as I can to get them back to Germany.

On the plus side, while he’s been taking his turns, I’ve had a chance to start reading the Fall 1945 issue of Planet Stories. Also, I’ve downloaded Panzer General out of nostalgia (I’ve got the disc, okay); now I just need to get it configured on DosBox.

*I told my girlfriend this. She asked how short. I told her it would probably be over in about two or three weeks. The idea that a 9-12 hour Avalon Hill wargame is short still breaks her mind and sends her into fits.

Fortress Europa Pt 7 (conclusion and reset)

Last night, it was pretty clear that I would be fighting for the draw.  The question was whether I could push the Germans out of Frankfurt, and the answer was ultimately no.  Even though I scored some crushing victories, the final February turn my attacks were repulsed or Nazis in the rough received the dreaded “DR” retreat, meaning that they got to camp out where they were.  10-1 odds against a half-strength infantry and a brigade of artillery ended with no results.  These defeats killed even the slightest chance of reaching Nurnberg, but I still had a chance at Frankfurt.  In March, the last of the British threw everything they had against the city and managed to drive out the Volksturm, but in trying to take the city, they had to take fire from the troops across the Main and were ultimately unable to hold the city.

While it’s unquestionable that the Allies will win the war, even in the position I’ve left them, the game ended up being a narrow victory for the German player.

Though my dad is incredibly excited to try out the Bull Run game, he wanted to make one more go at Fortress Europa, this time as the Allies.  I’m more than happy to oblige, but I’ll be sure to bring the next issue of Planet Stories with me to read while he takes his turns.

I’m trying to convince him that he should launch the primary Allied invasion in the Netherlands.  I’ve left it ill-defended, however it will put the Invasion Response Force within a single turn’s movement (even with my rail capacity bombed to crap this turn) of landing forces.  The advantage in taking the Netherlands would be that it would open an avenue straight into Germany without having to fight across the Pas de Calais.  On the other hand, it would make the primary Allied game objective of taking Paris next to impossible.  I’ve already allowed, however, that SHOULD the Allied forces somehow take all of the key cities in Germany, the German forces isolated in western France would probably surrender.  I’ll have to check the supply rules to see how that would actually work out, but I’d imagine that HQs that could not somehow trace their line back to a rail connected to Germany would not be able to keep any German troops in supply.  A turn or two of that and they’d be wiped out anyway.

Minor update:
Damn, seeing Jeffro post about Federation Commander really makes me want to crack open Imperium and give it another go.  I probably haven’t played that one since I was 10.  I know it wasn’t one of the greatest games, but man, how can you not love a game with space ships!  I mean, come on, it has a Glory marker!

Fortress Europa Pt 6

Three turns left, and while the German Army is taking its licks and falling back and some of the worst of the Nazi big-bads have been withdrawn to deal with the Russians, I don’t think I’m going to meet the Allied Victory Conditions.  I need 4 out of 5 of Bremen, Frankfurt, Nurnberg, Munich and Hannover.  I’ve got Bremen and Hannover, but there are enough guys between me and Frankfurt that it could very likely take me all three turns to take it and force a draw.  I doubt I could break through to Nurnberg and reaching Munich will be next to impossible.

The Brits have made a few successful forays, but biggest push I’m making now is coming from the Americans who are landing in Bremen in droves.  I’ve all but given up trying to dislodge the Germans from the south Rhine.  I’m still kicking myself for wasting so much time and manpower in the push from Lyon to Strasbourg.  If I had it to do all over again, I’d pushed across the north much stronger and with more Americans.

Aftermath next week.

Fortress Europa 2

Fortress Europa Pt 5

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!”

Imagine how hard it would've been for us to fight through all of those red lines if they hadn't run out of gas in the forests west of the Rhine!

Imagine how hard it would’ve been for us to fight through all of those red lines if they hadn’t run out of gas in the middle of a forest west of the Rhine!

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.

Fortress Europa (cont) – Allied Fail

I think my Dad may finally break my streak.  Despite having a phenomenal start following D-Day, some unfortunate rolls (retreating Nazis & bad weather) and poor strategic choices have been costly.  The US armor getting bogged down by trying to cut around the south of the Massif Central to get behind the German lines only to get bottled up in the Rhone & Saone Valleys has probably hurt me the worst.  I should’ve launched my second invasion against Marseilles rather than La Rochelle, but I wanted to mix it up a bit. There were also some minor mistakes that proved major, like having an HQ just one hex shy of being able to land paratroopers in Antwerp; if I’d been able to do that, I could have landed several armor divisions behind the fleeing Wehrmacht.  Instead, I’m having to fight for every inch of ground, and my dad has made the best of the terrain in eastern France.

I don’t know if I’m “losing” or if I’m going to lose the game, but I’m faring much poorer than the Allies did historically.  This map is shows operations from late August to mid-September.  The green is about how far I’ve managed to push and the purple is where my Dad’s line is holding.  It’s the end of October and I haven’t reached the Siegfried line.

Fortress Europa

We’re going to try to wrap things up this weekend.