Fortress America: Red Strategy for the USA

Fortress America's eastern invader begins his attacks against Miami and Tampa
Fortress America's eastern invader begins his attacks against Miami and Tampa | Source

Red Strategy- Philosophy

I've been playing Milton Bradley's Fortress America for over two decades, and I believe I've discovered the most effective strategy for giving the US player the best chance at victory. Bear in mind that this strategy is in no way foolproof or guaranteed. It has, however, served me well.

I call this approach the Red Strategy, because the USA's defense is focused on the Eastern Invader, which uses the red-colored pieces. Before we get into the specific tactics, let's discuss the reasoning behind the strategy.

When the game begins, all three invaders have identical sets of military units, especially on the first turn. For the next five turns, each invader can choose specific units for each turn, but the available pieces are the same for each invader. The difference between invaders that must be considered is the available units for USA defense.

In the west, the available units are all coastal, with the small exception of Salt Lake City. Once the Western invader has conquered the coastal cities, along with San Diego, he uses several turns to reach and conquer Salt Lake. The next nearest city is Denver, which will take a few more turns to conquer. For the US player, western reinforcements are slim, only acquired by Partisan Cards or long movement from the midwest area.

In the south, US reinforcements are slightly more available due to the nearness of the midwest area, but still dwindle quickly if the Southern invader has even average dice rolls. As the Partisan Cards are fairly evenly split between the five sectors, the USA chances of getting significant reinforcements in the south from that source are the same as in the west.

In this consideration, the east is the exception. The Eastern Sector and the eastern end of the Plains Sector are loaded with cities, giving the USA almost half of their starting units within quick fighting distance of the east coast. This proliferation of troops available in the east is the reason for the Red Strategy.

Since the Red invader will be facing the most troops anyway, the Red Strategy piles on as much offense and defense as possible, reducing Red's fighting ability as quickly as possible. Once the Red invader has been diminished beyond his ability to conquer cities, the Western and Southern invaders will be hard-pressed to hold 18 cities, and the game is almost always won for the USA.

Red Strategy- Tactics

Within the Red Strategy, decisions are made toward the east; that is, when the USA player has a choice where to send his reinforcements, choose the Eastern sector over the other choices. If a Partisan Card provides units for the Plains sector, place them in or near cities such as Detroit, Cleveland or Indianapolis. When units are provided for the Southern Sector, place them in Memphis or territories near Memphis or Atlanta.

Station helicopters in Tampa at the start of the game; if forced to retreat, they can reach Atlanta. In Miami, defend with a tank and a helicopter for a good chance of hits against the invader. As soon as possible, bring your midwest units to defend in the Eastern Sector. Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Memphis all have units that can be used to stop Red's advance. Place your infantry closer to the front lines, as they move slowest.

Move your units where Red moves his. If he focuses on Washington DC, pile on the defenders in that area, retaking the city if at all possible. If he focuses on the Atlanta area, move armor and infantry in that direction. At all times beware of the sneak attack against your least defended region.

Be sure to maintain proper levels of defense north of Washington DC. If you empty the northwest cities to defend around Atlanta or Cleveland, and Red takes Washington DC, you could be hard-pressed to reinforce Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Buffalo. Utilize the mountain territories around Washington DC to overwhelm the invader and liberate the city when possible.

The USA Bombers deserve special attention. When stationed in the agriculture territory south of Indianapolis, they can be used to reach Washington DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, or New Orleans. This position multiplies the Bombers potential power to liberate any of those cities should the situation arise. They are also in one-turn range of reinforcing Philadelphia, New York or Boston. Do not waste Bombers on city defense unless absolutely necessary, as they are the rarest replacement item in the USA reinforcement cards.

Your lasers should also be used to turn Red, focusing especially on Red's air units. Since there are fewer air units than other unit types, it is quickest to remove them and deny Red the combined arms which makes conquering cities easier. When your fighting units cannot hit Bombers or Helicopters, your lasers can. Within five or six turns, the USA can reduce Red to fighting without air cover in most of their battles, or choosing to fight fewer battles per turn.

While focusing on Red, don't forget that Yellow might storm across the upper midwest and attack Minneapolis or Milwaukee, or that Blue might break into Kansas City or St. Louis. If this happens, the invaders might have just enough power to hold those eighteen cities and win. As you see Red failing, be sure to divert some troops to hold the other invaders from deep penetrations into the heartland. This will usually happen after turns five or six.

While the Red Strategy is unbalanced, it takes advantage of the natural set of the board. Using these ideas should give your USA player the greatest chance of winning the game.

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