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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Fortress America Strategy Guide, Part 5: Invader Cards, Western Player

The 2012 edition introduces a new set of mini-decks (8 cards) for each of the Invader players. These cards are optional and the game can be played as normal without them, but should an Invader wish to use them, they do so in their Reinforcements phase, drawing 1 card and 5 units as Reinforcements, instead of 8.
This is a big sacrifice for the Invader, cutting down almost half the units they receive for a random drawn card and effect. Considering the need for the Invaders advance each turn, are these cards really worth it and if so when is the best time to draw them?
In this article, and the following two, I will look at the practical aspects of the cards – what they need to play them, and if the cards are worth the delay to the Invader.
I have decided to split this part of my guide into 3 articles, each addressing a specific Invading player, so as to avoid a great wall of text.

The following map shows the key strategic locations the Western Player must hold in order to be able to play all his cards.

The Red Areas are 'must haves'.
The Orange are back up areas, places that should be taken to help relieve the pressure on the red areas.
An example would be the 'Mineral Resource' areas. The Western player has a card that requires him to hold TWO Mineral Resources'. If he draws the card and doesn’t hold two areas, then he has effectively stalled part of his turn, that is the card is of no use at the present time, and he is behind by 3 reinforcement units.
The red areas show the easiest (or the most convenient) areas to hold. The orange areas are locations that will possibly overlap with the Southern Player, or else to far away, in dangerous US held territory or are otherwise tough to guarantee will be held by the player.
Staying with the Mineral Areas as the example, in particular the northern most area in the Rocky Mountains. We can see with a standard attack pattern (one relying on Helicopters to aid the advance) the MINIMUM amount of turns the Western Player needs to take this area is '3'.
Using examples like this we will also have some idea as to the best time to start drawing Invader cards.

If the Western Player uses the map as an example of what areas (Red areas) he needs to hold, we can see that he is guaranteed of being able to play all his cards at the END OF TURN 3.
That is the minimum, assuming America doesn’t win any of the battles against the Western Player.
The average playability of the Western Invader deck is 2 TURNS. That is on a standard advance, based on the map, the Western player is will be able to play half his deck after turn 2.

Now we have an idea of when to start drawing cards, let us look at the actual card effects and see if they are worth the risk of drawing.

Card Name: Will to Conquer

Remains in play. Allows the Western Invader to once per combat in which he is the attacker, take one of his casualties and still resolve its attack.
This is an excellent card, and helps a great deal in ensuring the attacker still resolves a 'Combined Arms' attack (page 17 states a player still has combined arms if his firing units contain one of each air/mech/inf. Even though this unit is a casualty it is still a 'firing' unit).
Minimum Playable Turn: End of turn 3

Card Name: New Shanghai

Effect is to class Seattle as an Invasion Zone.

Although the Invader needs to advance, and every step forward is a benefit, having Seattle so close to the Invasion Zone already, doesnt buy the Invader much of an advantage. Adding to this the card is lost if America retakes Seattle makes this a weak card.
Minimum Playable Turn: 2. Requires Seattle. Seattle is already a Western target, so play is almost guaranteed in a standard game.

Card Name: Reinforcements

Allows the Western Player to take 3 units from his graveyards and add them back to his reserves.
The Western Player has 2 of these cards in his deck, and both can be held in hand and resolved in any Reinforcement phase. This makes them very valuable. Who doesn’t want 3 Bombers back for mid to late game? Excellent card.
Minimum Playable Turn: Effectively end of turn 1, but if you need 3 Bombers back this early, go play a different game!

Card Name: Mountain Passes

Grants the Western Player the ability to not need CA for combats in the Rocky Mountains area.
This is another poor card for the Western Player. Although it is nice, most good armies already have a combined arms force, or the ability (with good use of Bombers) to receive CA. The Rocky Mountains are always a nightmare to cross, this card helps small engagements where maybe a couple of hover tanks need to displace an annoying Partisan unit, but aside from that, and combat elsewhere, it is of no use.
Minimum Playable Turn: 3. Requires Salt Lake City. Although SLC is a target for the Western Player, its a mid game target, and given a large force is needed to take it, this large force is usually powerful enough to push through the Rockies without needing this card.

Card Name: Refractive Armour

Remains in play and adds a 10% defensive bonus to your Helicopters and Bombers from the US players Lasers.

Undoubtedly powerful, the US players Lasers have a habit of frying Invaders much needed Bombers. Anything that increases the difficulty (even by as little as 10%) has to be a bonus. This is a nice card to draw early game, as it isn’t much use at all if your Helicopters and Bombers are already destroyed.

Also the fact it gives no Military bonus (the defence is great, but its at the discretion of the America player to fire at you. If he doesn’t, this card is worthless), makes it a little suspect as to its value
Minimum Turn Playable: End of 1. Requires San Francisco. Very easy playable requirements.

Card Name: Airlift

Scouting Helicopters can transport 1 Infantry Unit for 1 turn.
This is another card that although easy to draw and play, has very restrictive effects. It requires Helicopters to be in position with Infantry, often not viable as Helicopters love to Scout ahead. However, there is a very understated bonus to this card – Infantry can attack and move as normal after they disembark from the Helicopter.

Add to this you can play the card during any of your Manoeuvre Actions, gives you the chance to get Helicopters and Infantry in position and take America by surprise. A very nice tactical card.
Minimum Turn Playable: End of turn 1. Requires LA. An easy target for the Western Player.

Card Name: Long Range Bomber Prototype

Allows one bomber to move up to 8 spaces in both Manoeuvre and Invasion phases.
A tricky card here as it doesn’t state if it remains in play or if its just for one turn. As other cards specifically state 'Remain in Play' we took the house decision that it doesn’t remain in play.

This makes the card another situational specific card. One has to question when a Bomber would be needed to double its move, given that it already is the fastest piece in the game. And that Invaders cant coordinate attacks, so flying across the board to help another player isn’t all that viable either. The best use of this card would be to destroy annoying Partisan units that pop up behind your lines and threaten a city, when your main forces are to far away to respond.
A precision strike with one bomber is not viable given that any defender strikes first. Losing a Bomber to an Infantry unit would be at best embarrassing at worst a very poor trade.

Minimum Turn Playable: End of turn 1. Requires LA.

In summary,

The Western Deck is best left to the mid-game before the player begins to draw cards. His advance should be well under way, with Salt Lake City close to falling, and LA/San Fran both secure and under his control.

Air is favoured in this deck, with Bombers and Helicopters receiving benefits (or being part of the requirements). The deck also has 2 cards specifically designed to return units from the graveyard. These should be spent restoring lost Air, which are the games most powerful units, and increase the playability of the rest of this deck.

Coming Next: the Southern Invaders Deck


  1. This is an excellent series. Please keep working on it.

  2. I haven't played the 2012 version yet, so I have this question:

    Re. New Shanghai card- If the card classifies Seattle as an invasion zone, how can America retake it, when they are not allowed to attack into invasion zones?