Fortress Europa: Designer Signature Edition from Compass Games is a remastering of an original wargaming classic designed by John Edwards. This is a 2-player hex and counter wargame that recreates the Allied campaign in Western Europe from D-Day to March 1945. This new edition of Fortress Europa features a super-sized play area consisting of two 43″ x 34″ maps, three sheets of counters, five player aids and five Order of Battle and Appearance cards.
In Action Point 1, we looked at the all important Invasions by the Allied player, including how the Germans setup their units and their special Hidden units. In this Action Point, we will examine the different specialized units including Paratroopers, Rangers, Commandoes, French Partisans, Volkssturm and Mulberries.
Both the Germans and Allies have special Paratrooper units that have a lot of flexibility and can be used to supplement Invasions by attacking targets up to 3 hexes inland from any invadable hexes. Normally though the range of Allied and German Paratroopers is the same as Tactical Bomber or TAC range which is usually 8 hexes within range of any Headquarters Unit on the board.
There is a limit on the number of times Paratroopers can be used throughout the game though as the Allies can conduct paradrops five times per game while the Germans can only conduct paradrops twice per game. Only one paradrop can happen per turn. When a paradrop occurs, up to three units may be dropped at one time, with individual units dropping no more than three hexes apart and with a maximum spread of seven hexes. This limitation is to simulate the need for communications and unity of command among the different units for these operations and I feel that seven hexes is actually pretty generous. Two or three Paratrooper units may drop into the same hex and when dropped each unit must roll on the Paratrooper Drop Table to see what the result of the drop is.
As you look at the Table above, you will notice that something bad only happens on a roll of 4+ but this can be mitigated by not dropping into an Enemy Zone of Control and not landing in non-Clear Terrain. When these guidelines are followed, a bad result will only happen on a roll of 6. At most, you will take a reduction on your units and there are no scattered or disrupted effects on this Table that I have seen in other games.
The really important aspect to Allied Paratroopers is that they do not count against Invasion capacity limits provided they are airdropped. If they happen to land as normal units, and I can’t imagine why you would do this as that defeats the purpose, they count against the supply capacity as well as the Invasion capacity. The Paratroopers also cannot move upon landing and can only fight if they land in an EZOC or in the same hex as enemy units so you have to weigh the risk versus the reward of ignoring my advice above. The Paratroopers have a lot of flexibility in how they effect the game as they are not very powerful, with only 3-5 combat factors, and mainly are used to delay the advance of German units held in reserve to harass the landing hexes during an Invasion.
Rangers and Commandoes
Following this theme of flexibility, Rangers (American) and Cammandoes (British) are specialized units that typically impact the game by performing Raids on key hexes, including inland ports or railheads to pave the way for larger Infantry and Armor units. Similar to Paratroopers, Rangers and Commandoes are never out of supply and never count against the Allied supply capacity so they basically add extra firepower to be used to take out certain objectives to aid in the main push off the beaches from the Allies.
Rangers and Commandoes conducting a raid must begin their turn in either England or Africa. These units can raid any invadable hex including inland ports on any turn, either move impulse, as a group or singly. Only two such raids are allowed per game and you have to plan for the time to use them when they can have the greatest impact on your plans. If a Raid occurs in a group, all of the units must land in the same or adjacent hexes and as mentioned previously Raids don’t count against invasion capacities. Similarly to Paratroopers, Rangers and Commandoes will be unable to move when they land but don’t have any negative effects from simply appearing next to an enemy unit within their EZOC. The other really interesting aspect with Rangers and Commandoes is that even though they are of different nationality, they can ignore the rule of mixing commands and can attack together.
The only problem with Rangers and Commandoes is that they are not high combat factor units. Their best combat factor is a 2 and will hold you back in really making an impact with them as they just can’t get the odds you need to guarantee success on an attack. But this is outweighed by their flexibility of command, their ability to Raid any target within reason as they are not limited by TAC range and never count against supply capacity. Use them wisely as they can help you to clear the way for your big guns to move toward Paris.
I really enjoy specialized units in wargames that serve a fairly innocuous purpose that you will find can benefit you greatly if used properly. Such is the case with the French Partisans. On the first turn of the game, the Allied player automatically gains one French Partisan unit, which can be used to cut railways and inhibit German movement and supply.
After the first turn, the Allied player will have to roll to see if they gain another Partisan during the Replacement Phase. The Allied player rolls 1d6 during his Replacement Phase and on a roll of 5 or 6, he has one French partisan counter available. Partisans cannot be permanently removed from the game. They do have very specific and interesting placement rules as the Partisan unit can only be placed in a non-city rail hex not located in Germany or Italy, not in an enemy ZOC, and not within five hexes of an SS unit. These limitations are very indicative of the role they played during the D-Day invasion and make perfect sense to me. They cannot appear around enemy units and try to avoid the SS at any cost. The unit may be placed during the Allied second move impulse on each turn it is available.
So what purpose do they serve as you can see that they have no combat factors? They are there to cause trouble for the Germans and slow their movements toward the landing beaches. German units that are traveling by rail may not enter a hex containing a Partisan unit and supply may not be traced through the hex either. When a German unit moving along a rail comes into contact with a Partisan they must stop upon entering. The German units in the hex with the Partisan are not affected in any way when attacking and they can never attack the Partisans. Partisans cannot be eliminated and will simply re-spawn. At the end of the German second move impulse, the player will simply remove the Partisan unit from the board.
In the above picture, you will see that it can be tricky to figure out where to place these Partisan units. I would have preferred to place it on the rail line located to the north of Paris but this spot has two of the factors that prevent placement; there is an SS unit less than five hexes from the area and you cannot place Partisans in an EZOC. The reason for wanting to place the Partisan here is so the SS unit cannot move north and attack the just landed Paratroopers there.
When the SS unit does decide to move up on the rail line that leads to the east, they are stopped when they come in contact with the Partisan unit there. There is no attack, nor any penalty to the SS unit, and their movement is simply stopped. I love the Partisan unit. It is a great roadblock that should be used to keep the German reinforcements at bay for the first few turns as the Allies build up on the Invasion beaches and prepare for their breakout to Paris and then to the east.
The Volkssturm was a national militia formed by the Nazis during World War II that was created by conscripting all men of fighting age, covering 16 to 60, that were not alraedy conscripted to some other military branch and was seen as a last line of defense to protecting Germany from the invading Allies. In the game, these units are relegated to a static defense where they are located in cities in Germany.
Volkssturm units will automatically appear in any city in Germany when any Allied unit appears within three hexes of these cities. They can appear only once per city and there can never be more than eight of these defensive units in the game at one time. In most cases it will be obvious in what cities Volkssturm units have already appeared, but Volkssturm Appeared markers may be used to mark these cities. It is important to remember that a Volkssturm unit will appear even if this would overstack the hex, and then must bring the stack back into compliance by conforming to stacking restrictions by the end of the next German move impulse.
These Volkssturm units really are only a means to slow the Allies down as they drive into a thinly defended Germany. They are a 2-2 unit so won’t be able to put up any kind of an offensive attack but due to their ability to overstack they can aid in the defense of key cities when paired with other more formidable German units.
One of the very interesting, yet very frustrating aspects of the design for the Allies, is the issue of supply and how many units can be supported in France each turn. The Allied player has two Mulberry units; one with a supply capacity of 12 and one with a supply capacity of 9. One must be placed on the board at the end of the second impulse of each invasion. If there is only one invasion, only one is used. These Mulberry units are vital to your success and will really determine how effective your breakout will be as you simply need more units to do a good job of pushing the Germans back, taking Paris and then driving on Germany itself.
The placement rules are fairly simple as you can place a Mulberry unit in an enemy Zone of Control but not in an enemy occupied hex. The initial placement is very important though and you have to make sure that you can protect them from counter attack as you only get access to two of these units. If a German unit moves into or through a Mulberry hex, the Mulberry is destroyed and may not be replaced. The Allied supply capacity will be immediately reduced by the value of the Mulberry.
In the picture below, you will see that I placed the 12 Supply Mulberry unit in a captured beach hex that has some separation from the German units to the east. As you can also see I placed a good strength Infantry unit in the hex adjacent to the Mulberry and between the Germans to protect that hex. As I continue to break out, and you can see the progress of the Allies here with a nice pocket being formed that can support several more units to land, I will need to ultimately take out the nearby German units before I can move that Infantry unit.
The best (and worst) part about the Mulberry units though is that they are vulnerable to bad weather. On any Storm turn, Mulberries that are placed in Europe may be damaged. The process is pretty simple and requires you to roll one die before the Allied first move impulse of their turn for each Mulberry in Europe. A roll of 5-6 reduces the Mulberry’s supply capacity by half (rounding down). This damage may be repaired in the same manner as ports that are damaged beginning the turn after, if the Mulberry is occupied by a friendly infantry unit. If the Mulberry is damaged, it will really slow your advance and can be the difference between a loss and a victory.
I hope you got a good feel for the various units available to both sides in Fortress Europa. There are still other units that we didn’t cover, such as Training Forces, Naval Units, Headquarters and Coastal Defense Units, but we covered the most useful and best units.
In Action Point 3, we will take a look at the very interesting and well done abstraction called the Aircraft Mission Chart and how air power is used.
If you are interested, Alexander penned a nice but brief review of our experience with Fortress Europa and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2020/03/12/they-fight-to-end-conquest-a-review-of-fortress-europa-dse-from-compass-games/