Fortress America: Politics, gaming in conflict

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Fortress America (Fantasy Flight Games)Fantasy Flight Games thought it was resurrecting a board game classic, but instead it stirred up a minor political debate and PR backlash.

The company is planning to release a new edition of Milton Bradley’s Fortress America. That somewhat-prophetic 1986 strategy game pitted the United States, secure behind a nuclear missile shield, against a coalition of invading forces. It was notable for pitting three players — as Asians (with yellow pieces!), Latin Americans and “Euro-Socialists” — against one: the goodl-ol’ U S of A.

According to EN World, the description of the 21st century version has been hastily rewritten after complaints arose that it was “politically inflammatory.”

Here’s the original blurb:

“It is the early 21st century. Having suffered a series of devastating terrorist attacks, the U.S. wields a newly developed and horrifyingly destructive weapon technology with desperate fury, lashing out mercilessly at any government suspected of harboring its hidden enemies. Entire nations are erased from the map. The world is stunned by the brutal display. Facing few options, an unlikely coalition of nations joins forces to attempt one final plan: the invasion of America.”

Some people who read this description on the Fantasy Flight website took it to mean the company was casting America in the role of the villain. Says the company: “That text has been since altered to correctly reflect our game’s backstory. Our marketing department misread certain key thematic elements of the game, and took unauthorized dramatic liberties with the text. We apologize for any offense this may have caused.”

And now, the politically corrected version for decent, God-fearing, thin-skinned Americans:

In the 21st century, the United States unveiled a military defense system that completely changed global politics. Through a series of satellites and powerful lasers, the U.S. gained a flawless defense against intercontinental missile attacks. The rest of the world feared that this defensive network might be used to launch an attack, and they united to demand that the U.S. dismantle it. A lengthy diplomatic stalemate gripped the globe. With the world at a crossroads, coalitions of nations were formed unlike any that had ever existed before. A plan was devised to destroy this perceived technological threat through military action. It involved attacking from three directions at once, for the nations of the world knew that every army dreads fighting a war on two fronts… and America was about to face three.

Still with us?

All politics aside, I think the “unauthorized dramatic liberties” of the first blurb make for a more interesting game scenario than the sanitized version — and a much more clear goal. Which is, after all, along with a clear antagonist and a willing suspension of disbelief, the key to a good game. The second take is just a convoluted mess.

At least the box art doesn’t suck.

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About the author

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Jayson Peters

Digital, social and print media pro. Nerdvana's founder, curator and editor.

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  • I agree. Just based on the description, I’d be much more interested in playing the game after reading the first, rather than the second. Not to mention the fact that it’s a boardgame! I can’t count the number of times I’ve invaded America in Axis & Allies or Risk. It seems silly to eliminate the storytelling potential of an antgonistic America, but I suppose these are the days we live in.

  • I agree. Just based on the description, I’d be much more interested in playing the game after reading the first, rather than the second. Not to mention the fact that it’s a boardgame! I can’t count the number of times I’ve invaded America in Axis & Allies or Risk. It seems silly to eliminate the storytelling potential of an antgonistic America, but I suppose these are the days we live in.

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