The Impregnable Fortress: Review

The Battle of Singapore: Declared as the “worst disaster” in British military history by Winston Churchill.
The Impregnable Fortress (a game based on the aforementioned battle, created by Falling Piano Games): Declared as the “most pleasantly surprising” game of 2017 by Me.

Played on a modest hex grid board, players take control of either the invading Japanese army or the defending Brits, moving tokens one at a time in an alternating fashion. The aim is to find your opponent’s one HQ piece and smash it.

Each collection of tokens is made up of a range of numbers – one number per token – and represents their combat strength. Basic troops are “6” while tanks are “9”. Are you with me so far?

Like chess, when you move a piece onto the board space occupied by your opponent, a battle takes place. The higher number of the two is the victor… in most cases. So in our above example, the tank beats the troops: nine is more than six.

That sounds simple enough, and it is, but now let’s throw in a couple of spanners.

 

I had no idea what I was doing…

First, consider that every token on each side is hidden in value from your opponent. You don’t know how strong a token is until you initiate a combat, at which point both are revealed permanently.

The plot thickens.

Next let’s give some of the tokens helpful abilities. Let’s give the “4” value Recon troops the ability to reveal all adjacent enemy tokens at the cost of revealing itself. So now you’ve a way to somewhat safely gain much needed intel (and perhaps save some lives).

How about giving each player a bomber which can strike any target on the board? How about giving each player access to a couple of anti-air guns that can attempt to shoot down said bomber if it strikes a nearby friendly token? You can’t throw that bomber about willy-nilly now, lest you strike a defended token.

How about giving each player some anti-tank teams which, while only valued “2,” can take out tanks?

Hopefully now you can start to see how the bluffing game becomes so important. The very fact that you don’t know what you’re hitting until crunch time makes for a very cagey style of play. Is my opponent confidently pushing that token forward because it’s a tank? Or is it a recon troop trying to reveal what’s safe?

Should I make the first move and hope to call the bluff? Or do I put forward a sacrificial pawn to reveal what I’m up against?
Also note that the tokens which are the highest value are very limited in number. You can’t afford to just charge them forward with reckless abandon.

 

Now I know what I’m doing. Regrets start to surface…

As each player initiates a combat, they are given a Political point. Accumulate enough and you can spend a couple to draw a “politics” card from a small deck. Each card also has a political value attached which needs to be spent to be used. These cards can be quite powerful in the right circumstance, such as adding another tank token to your side (there is only one or two available, depending on the level of complexity you want to play at) or returning all your opponent’s political points to the main pool.

3 of the 30 cards available, 15 for each side.

The game is quite speedy, which is fantastic. Setup doesn’t take much more than thinking where you’d like to pop your HQ and army tokens. Turns also fly by – when you and your opponent get to grips with the game, you’ll be moving pieces across the board like speed chess champions.

The only thing I can say that I don’t like is the artwork. I know art is subjective, but let’s call a spade a spade: it’s not good. I found the choice to add QR codes to the Political cards an odd one as well. When scanned, you’re taken to a site which provides more info on the real world events. This isn’t something you’ll be doing mid-game as it brings the flow of the game to a screeching halt. This feature might be handy for a school project but beyond that, wouldn’t you just look up the event on wiki if you were interested in learning more? Again, an odd choice.

I would have loved if the game board was reversible with a second, different game map on the other side. New deployment positions and obstacles could provide a fresh change of scenery and improve longevity. A missed opportunity.

Too little too late. My battleship sunk. Bugger.

Looking beyond its visual flaws, The Impregnable Fortress is a surprisingly fun game. It’s quick enough to play a couple of rounds in an hour, and provides enough tactical depth to allow strategies to be formed and put to the test. Even during my first game I could see where I made mistakes, and how to correct them in subsequent plays.

The ability to increase and decrease the difficulty to match those of the players’ age is another feather in its cap.

Pro tip: if you’re a savvy gamer, start off with everything available as that’s where the game shines.

Don’t let the MS Paint styling of the box art sway your judgement on this one folks, for what lies beneath is a tactically engrossing “chess on ‘roids” type game. This is definitely one to pick up for your collection.

Falling Piano Games Website – https://www.fallingpianogames.com/
Falling Piano Games Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/fallingpianogames/

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