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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Fortress America Strategy Guide, Part 4: American Partisan Cards

Firstly a 'thank you' to all the people who have been following these articles. Its good to know there are other fans of this great game out there!
In this article I will be looking at the Partisan Deck of Cards, used by the American Player to gain reinforcements.

The Partisan Cards are hugely important to an American Victory. Survival relies on a good strategy and maximising the resources available to a player, effective use of Partisan Cards is make or break for America. Without these cards no amount of good play can overcome the fact America is outnumbered 60 to 180!
As Partisan cards are drawn at random, its hard to base a strategy around them, but we can still learn a lot from a look at the numbers involved.

Of the 31 Reinforcement cards,
24 give actual Military Units and 7 do not.
For now we will look at the ones that give units.

The starting chance of drawing specific units looks like this,

The first number is the overall percentage chance that a card drawn will give the unit type. The numerical reward, in terms of actual models, is shown as [x], then the chance of receiving that amount.
It looks more complicated than it is. One simple way to read the chart is by using 'Bombers' as an example.

When you draw a card (and its one of the 24 of 31 that give you Military Units), then there is a 3.22% chance that the unit you will receive is 'Bombers'.

If you do receive Bombers then its 100% chance you will receive 2 Bombers as a reward
In short, its a long way of saying 1 card in 31 will give you 2 Bombers!

For Partisans it goes like this,

54.74% chance that card gives you Partisans

53.28% that you will receive [2] Partisan models, 19.98% its worth [3] models, 26.64% its [4] models.
Now, that's a lot of numbers, and only really viable pre-game, as each time a card is drawn it is played and discarded, which changes the overall percentage chances drawing your next card.

What we can learn from these numbers

Conventional Forces (Infantry, Tanks, Helicopters etc. Anything none 'Partisan') can be drawn as Reinforcements

This is important to America because the US player starts with ALL his conventional forces on the board. This tells us that in order to maximise our draws we must lose a number of our starting forces. Remember the key to victory is getting the best from units and Partisan cards.
Let us look at the ideal number of casualties America should take to play the numbers game.

Hovertanks – the maximum you can receive from a draw is 3 models, but you are more likely to receive only 1. Approximately 1 in 4 cards will produce Hovertanks, so its important we have some of these models (max 3) in our casualties.

Infantry – maximum reward is 5, minimum 3, with an equal chance of receiving 3,4 or 5. Infantry have a low draw chance, but as Foot represent the largest of our conventional force (and in turn the largest of our casualties) we don’t need to worry about having models in our casualty pile as its likely we will have lots!

Helicopters – Draw chance is approximately 1 in 5 cards, and the reward is worth 1 (most common) or 2 (uncommon) models. Helicopters are valuable units be we can afford to lose one to benefit from Partisan draws.

Mobile Units – Have a low draw chance, and a tight reinforcement number, with 1 or 2 models as the expected reward. Mobile Units are far more important to the Invading player, so its likely we will have these in our casualty pile as its common practice to allow them to die.

Bombers – ah, the powerful Minneapolis card! This is worth discussing on its own as it is a hard card to play, so we will address this as the first of our 'close-up' looks on cards.

Before I do, here is a quick note on ensuring casualties.

Most players when they start out as America take a look at the board and soon identify that half their army is going to die on the first turn. Their gut reaction is 'well, I'll place my weak units there then', which in a standard game is fine.
All we need to do is place a couple of tanks/helicopters in cities that will fall. As the defender fires first, and its likely the attack will bring Combined Arms, means at best we are simply exchanging like for like (tank kills tank, helicopter kills helicopter). The beauty is we know we stand a good chance of getting these casualties back as the game progresses.

Now a look at a single card in-depth.
Partisan Card: 'Commercial aircraft converted in Minneapolis'

Effect: Place two helicopters and two bombers in Minneapolis. Then discard this card.

As we know, Bombers are the most powerful unit in the game, then Helicopters. This card is the only one to reward the American player with replacement Bombers. It is on first look a very powerful card, and while the unit rewards are undoubtedly powerful, the card itself is not.
Why not?

Well first consider the Bomber as a Unit. It is the most powerful, but also the safest unit to use. It gets to choose its combat, and is always the last to be removed as a casualty. The American player has lasers to target Invader Bombers, but the only way for America to lose its own Bombers is through bad play, a mistake, or a suicide run by an Invader.

The defender strikes first. Air Units choose their targets. The only real way to destroy Air Units is with Air Units. An Invader can sacrifice his own Air Units to attack the American Air Force, but he risks being destroyed before he can do any damage. In summary Bombers are very unlikely casualties.

Then we must consider the chance to draw the card. It is one card in a deck of 31 cards. With American victory on Turn 10, and standard 2 draws per turn from the Partisan Deck, there is a good chance this card wont even be drawn. Which is usually to the benefit of the American player, as the majority of the times this card is only worth a Helicopter or two.

It is best to think of this card as a 'Secret Weapon'. Its powerful, and there will be a time that it will win the game. Such a time will be a good talk for years to come, but otherwise don’t expect much from this card.

Before we look at few other cards in detail I want to introduce the following map. Its a kind of 'heat chart' for Partisan Card activity.

The colours are as follows -
Red – key areas that America really needs to hold to ensure the benefit of a good card.
Purple – powerful areas, which are the focus of a lot of cards
Dark Blue – strong areas of Partisan activity
Blue – common areas, effected by a good amount of cards
Cyan (Light Blue) – areas with OK coverage
Green – areas supported but not in great number
Light Green – lightly effected areas
Yellow – very few Partisan cards target these areas

The first points that are easily identified in this chart are,

Colorado Springs
The battle for Colorado Springs is always a real tough fight. Not only does this city lie in the 'Key 9' belt for a standard game, but it is also the target of a powerful Partisan Card – a free laser!

The chance of drawing the card is very low, but Colorado Springs should be a City the American player fights for already, so it only adds to the importance of winning here.

The Boston Mountains (Purple)
A large number of cards can effect this location making it an important territory to hold, especially considering its lies in the middle of a cluster of 4 cities, and as an anchor between Colorado Springs and the centre push for the Southern Player.

Yellow and Light Green Plains (Centre North)
Expect little or no reinforcements to these locations. The only good news is the few cards that do effect this part of the map are usually quite powerful (providing a good chunk of units), however we cannot rely on drawing these cards, so if the Invader makes it to here, its game over for America.

The left hand side of the map is Blue!
This is largely due to the Rocky Mountains, as they form an excellent line of defence. Almost every step of the way here can be influenced by Partisan Cards. The centre left is also dark blue. This can be used as part of a strategy to cut off the Western Players supply lines and further hamper his advance. A strategy we will look at in a future article.

Cities are not marked
Aside from the ones marked Red, which America would do well to hold, there are very few cards that actually directly effect Cities, or units in Cities. As these locations are the source of victory or defeat we must address the real use of Partisan Cards.
Partisan Cards themselves cannot win or lose the game.

Effective use of Partisan Cards will win the game.
If you have managed to survive reading this far we now know roughly the amount of conventional troops we need to take as casualties in order to maximize our reserves, and we have a good idea of where Partisan cards will take effect. Now we will look at the actual in-game use of troops that we receive from these cards.

I will use a number of cards from the deck to illustrate actual tactical manoeuvres, but the principles apply across the range of cards, in particular the principle of defence, how territories are taken and how the armies advance.
Defence: Stalling Tactics

A player can only take a territory in which he has placed a Control Marker, indicating his intention to attack. And he can only move to take the territory in the Invasion Phase (final movement phase). This typically leaves an army only moving one territory per turn, with any Manoeuvre Movement it has being wasted.

One good tactic when using Partisans is to place them, then simply move them into an adjacent, empty enemy territory. This creates a buffer zone into which the enemy can freely move and retake, but cannot progress past with Manoeuvre Movement.
Not only is this a good tactic to delay the enemy, but it is also a viable tactic to use to cut the Invaders Supply Line. Four Partisans placed in the same region, which then move to adjacent territories can effectively take 8 locations and cause the Invader a real nightmare.

Any action that delays, hampers, or forces the Invader to turn his forces around buys the American player valuable time, and time is all he needs to win the game.

Let us look at a few examples of cards in play, and how to employ a couple of tactics.

Card: “Remember the Alamo!” shouted by New Texas Rangers as they raided the invader strongholds in the South.

Effect: Distribute four Partisans among any territories in the Southern Sector. Then discard this card.

This card is typical of the Partisan Deck. It gives a fair amount of models and allows them to be placed over a wide area.
Cards like this can be played in a number of ways.
Example 1: Coordinated Attack

Consider placing them around a City territory (or at a push a strategically valuable territory.) and one that is weakly guarded. The Invader needs to press forward and cant afford to keep a lot of units on defence, so its likely some Cities will be defended by a single Infantry Unit.

Partisans don’t make ideal attackers, especially not in groups, but sometimes the maths (and the potential reward) is worth the risk.

Attacking and retaking the city gives the American player a bonus card, and as you must have at least one unit left to take a city means a chance of inflicting a hit on defence. Not only that but it costs the Invader time. Any army that must head back towards an area that was previously classed as taken is one that isn’t causing further damage in the advance.

Example 2: Fall Back / Delaying Tactic

As previously mentioned forces can only move into and take 1 territory at a time. In this example the Partisans have caused damage (retaken areas) and then can fall back to the better defended mountain areas.

Card: 'Legions of Liberty make coordinated attack'

Effect: Choose two different enemy-occupied city territories and destroy one invader military unit in each of them. Then discard this card.

Cards like this (which allow you to split effects) are great when considering America is fighting on 3 fronts. Tactical flexibility is very important for victory, but when there is one objective then a concentration of force is equally as powerful.
In this example, while the Invader only has 2 Infantry units (weak units and usually not worth spending a card on) the fact that these territories are adjacent means it increases the perception of the threat. While its unlikely the American player can take and hold both cities, the Eastern player is forced to divert a larger force to the area than he would if only 1 City was at threat.

Dictating the enemies movement is a form of control and should be practised as often as possible, even if the actual in-game effect isn’t anything amazing.

Another important game effect to learn (and avoid) is predictability.

Consider this example.

Card: “Wheatfield Thrashers” dig in to protect the nations agriculture.

Effect: Choose four agricultural resource territories and place one partisan in each of them. Then discard this card.

This is a prime example of everything we have learnt so far.

Whilst the card allows for the units to be placed all over the board, concentrating them on one area allows for a multiple of options, all of which keep the enemy guessing.
From here the two Partisans in the bottom of the picture could move to take San Francisco, or move back to the mountains. Likewise the two at the top of the picture could move to threaten Portland, or they could move to the mountains.

There is a chance to retake two cities, or the possibility to take 7 territories off the Invader, surely cutting his supply lines, and digging in on defensible positions.
The key lesson here is don’t be static with your Partisans. Inflict maximum harassment each turn!

Two other cards of note, that are worth a quick mention due to the specific tactical options they offer are,

Card: 'Partisans revolt in the West'

Effect: Place two partisans, one mobile unit, and one helicopter in one territory in the western Sector. Then discard this card
What makes this card so special is that it is an instant 'Combined Arms' Attack Force. It is designed to retake a city, and even brings in a spare Partisan to take a hit!

Its a prime example of managing casualties to ensure you have the units as and when you need them, and of being aggressive.

Card: 'Major Airlift'

Effect: Choose one territory and move any or all US Military units from that territory to any friendly territory or unoccupied enemy territory (even a city territory). Then discard this card.
This is a very powerful card even though it grants no military units or partisans. One use that is obvious, is the relocation of units, either to pull units out of hostile territory thus saving them, reinforcing an area for defence, or simply a quick move to throw off your opponent.

However the key to using this card lies in the words 'unoccupied enemy territory, even a city territory'

Should any Invader leave a city undefended feel free to pop in! If a city is lightly guarded, take a force and capture it.

Another way to use this card is to advance your own defence lines. It is likely, if you are playing correctly, that many front line American cities will have a good sized (max 5) units defending it. Unless its directly threatened (i.e. the enemy is one territory away) that defence force is nothing more than units wasted.

You could lift them closer to the enemy and buy yourself more ground (and thus time to stall the enemy). Even if you don’t plan on holding onto the territory remember the stalling tactic.

Airlift into a territory, take it, then move, taking another territory.

Being aggressive is better than passively sat defending and allowing the Invader to dictate the flow of the game.

There is a lot more I could say on Partisan Cards, but this article is already very long! I may revisit specific cards and tactics in future articles.
For now I hope you found this informative, and that it doesn’t swing your games too much in the favour of America. I promise the next article will be Invader friendly too even the balance!
Thanks, and good gaming.


1 comment:

  1. Great reading so far (I've read them in order).

    Seems that you've failed to break a faulty paradigm for the invaders. Why must I take all the territories available, thus losing 6 or 8 when partisans drop in? Instead, choose an invasion corridor or two and stick to it. Leave defenders along the way, including a few extras in cities to take care of the expected unexpected incursions.

    The invasion corridor model is easiest to see in the west, but does work in all three theaters.