Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday, 29 July 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Fort

Game: Fort

Publisher: Leder Games

Designer: Grant Rodiek

Year: 2020


Did you build forts as a child? Taking every sheet, blanket and pillow from around the house and creating my own hideaway was certainly a favourite pass-time of mine. As an adult I now have a hankering for a treehouse though, surely the logical next step! A treehouse might have attracted more friends than my very solitary fort-building did, and that’s what Fort is all about. Who do you want to be in your friendship group and how much more powerful will your gang be if you’re working on the same things. If you are all keen on skateboarding, you’ll be surprised how much more pizza you will get!


Fort is all about collecting toys and pizza. With enough stuff you can upgrade your small fort into THE ULTIMATE FORT. Along the way you’ll fill your backpack with goodies, try to steal each other’s friends and keep lookout for hostile attacks. Fort is a deck-building game that evokes a very endearing theme, but also really challenges its players. It’s perhaps not the family game it first appears to be, so let’s take a closer look.


Gameplay

At the start of a game of Fort each player will be given two best friend cards and a random deck of other kids to start with. On a player's turn they may play any one card from their hand, these cards typically have 2 powers that the player can use in either order. Some cards can be boosted by playing other kids of the same suit. Any other player may discard one card of the same suit at this time to follow the top action of the active player's card. After resolving these actions the active player will then recruit a new friend, from either the area in front of each player's board or the common market. Finally any kids in their hand that weren't used during that player's turn will be placed in front of their player board for other players to potentially recruit. The used kids get discarded and a new hand of five is drawn.


The actions revolve around gaining resources in order to build forts. There are two resources: pizza and toys, these must be spent in an increasing amount using the fort action in order to upgrade your fort, which in turn unlocks bonuses for you. As you get a bigger fort you will increase the size of both your lookout (for storing kids) and backpack (for storing goods) which can both be interacted with using various cards in the deck to get resources/points quickly. Each player will also unlock a special power and a secret end game scoring card (known as a made up rule) as they build their fort. The game ends when someone completes their largest and final fort, but it can also end by a player scoring enough in game points.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Fort is a strange deckbuilder, because your deck can never truly be completely built. Sure, it has coloured suits that you can collect in order to make your actions more powerful, but at some point you are going to be putting those friends out for market and other players can recruit them either because they want their powers, or just to spite you! Plus what you want changes as you go through the game, sure pizzas and toys are always going to be useful, but many cards reward points based on the size of your lookout or bag, and these only get better with time. Focusing on one colour can be a curse as much as a blessing as you find yourself unable to follow suit on other players turns, thus miss out on useful actions.

While this does make the game extremely dynamic, it does detract a little from the typical deck-builder feeling. You are dealt a random starting deck of cards, it's perfectly possible to start the game with your dream deck and only go down from there. The ability to follow other players presents a lot of choices in higher player count games, since you might need to hold those cards back for your turn, and so much can happen between turns that the ideal card to play can change. When playing with two this is less of the case and you almost always want to follow.


What Fort is certainly not lacking in is charm. The theme is absolutely spectacular, the building of a childhood fort is a wonderful idea for a game and the suits of kids are those who like to play with water pistols/skateboards/books. The art and components have been filled with character that can't fail to bring a smile to your face.

Overall Fort is a great experience and certainly a novel take on deck-building, While the transient nature of your decks might not be to some peoples tastes, the ability to cultivate your deck to produce powerful combos is still there. The two ways to trigger the end of the game are both viable winning strategies, though you'll likely want to do a bit of both. It certainly adds replayability to the game as you try a different approach. Fort is not without its flaws, but despite this its overall charm and strong gameplay make it a pleasure to play.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

I really enjoy playing deck-building games but I've never encountered one quite like Fort. It's odd that we're so used to a typical formula of draw five cards and play them all: so used to it, that Fort really had me perplexed for our first couple of games. In Fort you've will play just one, solitary card on a turn and that decision can be agonising, and influenced by a few crucial factors. If you play a card that you can boost then you'll play more cards, meaning you'll have fewer cards that can be stolen. On the other hand, your best cards are more likely to be those cards that can only be played individually, but it's a bind to play them and risk losing so many others. You could send someone to the lookout to avoid giving them away, but they'll also be lost for good and no longer circulating in your deck. At two-players in particular, trying to figure out whether your opponent is likely to be able to follow is yet another factor. If they played a whole bunch of yellow cards last turn, there's a chance they won't be able to follow a yellow card, and getting one extra action can really be the difference between winning and losing. Similarly, playing a fort action when your opponent doesn't have the resources is a satisfying little victory - there are very few card that give you a private action to upgrade your fort.


Once I got my head around how to play this tricky little game, it was still a learning curve to figure out how best to create combos. I've started to favour wither the lookout point scoring strategy or the backpack scoring strategy, but I have no idea if there's better things I could be doing. Given that Amy keeps winning, I have to face facts and assume I could probably be doing better. For such a small game to have such a steep learning curve for me was a surprise, and I cant decide if it's good or bad. If you have a small board game collection, then a game like Fort is a great game to continue to discover over many plays, but for me, who consumes up to 50 different games in a month, it's a bit frustrating that I haven't got good at Fort yet.

While Fort is a smaller, lighte4r game than previous games from Leder Games, it still seems to have that hallmark uniqueness that made Vast and Root such stand-out games. Add to that the charm factor and Fort is very likely to be heading for success.


You Might Like...
  • There is so much charm in the game, from the little toy box cube, all the way to identifying the caricature of your childhood self.
  • Fort is a small package that holds a pretty complex, but streamlined deck-building game.
  • Big combos are possible and you can really start to rake in points if you make a deck that works well.
You Might Not Like...
  • Edge cases were not explained in the rulebook, including some that were deciding factors for the winner/loser of our game.
  • Having someone steal your friends is (unsurprisingly) a little upsetting, and it can be hard to create a well designed deck when your friends keep leaving you!

The Verdict
7/10 Fort is a really intricate deck-building game and you can definitely admire it for how it has made itself distinct from the crowd. The theme is very endearing, but the complexity probably makes it more of a nostalgia game for adults rather than a family game. At two players, making good combos was tricky and the ability to steal each other’s friends could sometimes make it hard to deck-build. It’s a very well designed experience, with a great theme and aesthetic, but the ease of playing the game wasn’t quite there for us.


Fort was review copy kindly provided to us by Leder Games. It is available to preorder from Leder Games directly, or at your friendly local games store.

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